When I'm editing, I leave my book each night with a row of asterisks that mark where I got to for the day. And every morning, I do a search on the row of asterisks and there it is, waiting for me.
I sometimes wish I could put a row of asterisks into my life. I'm up to here, they'd say. Now, stop.
Then I'd go and sit. Somewhere sunny. A friend and I were out for coffee the other day and we were talking about how we both fantasize about a comfortable chair that is just ours, in some hidden corner of the house.
The chair has to be white. No kid spills or paint, no juice or wine or coffee stains. No dog hair or pen marks. Just... white. Like a blank page.
I'd turn off my brain, shut off the novel-I-am-working-on, shut off the noisiness of real life -- like right now, the kids are playing in the bath, a game that involves screaming the word ICE over and over again -- and just be.
"BE QUIET!" I shout. "PLEASE!"
"WE ARE," they shout back. "WE'RE JUST SAYING 'ICE'!"
"That isn't the same as being quiet," I explain.
"ICE!" they shout. "ICE!"
They laugh so hard, they fall over, into the water. And come up, gasping. "Ice!"
I go back to my imaginary chair.
Very Zen, no? Here I am. Just breathing in and out and thinking about nothing.
Is that even possible? No, probably not.
They start shouting something else: "CANNONBALL!"
I leave my imaginary chair and go back to my life.
I am up to here in the edit right now, almost at the end but not ready to let it go. I know this book will have more rounds of editing and this is not the end -- it's a book that has stretched like taffy and become longer than it should by miles and miles -- but I'm always hesitant to hit send, let it go into someone else's hands, no matter how capable those hands are.
I'll go through it one more time, I think.
And the row of asterisks moves back again to the beginning.
Writing a novel never feels final, even when it is. Even when it comes back to you marked, "Page Proofing ONLY: The time for changes has passed!" There are so many more details if you just peek around this corner or that one, delve just a bit deeper into this character, add just one more scene. It's always tempting to keep changing and keep changing and keep changing.
Much like life: You can shift the angle of each character ever-so-slightly and see a completely different story, waiting to be told.
But sometimes it's too late to rewrite it. It's already gone to the printer to be made permanent and unchangeable. And the time for changes has passed.
Asterisk asterisk asterisk.