Let It Be

If authors did risk assessments, no one would ever begin a book. I’ve been working on a new novel for a little while and have only pieces of the world my characters inhabit, pieces that may never coalesce into a whole. I could spend five years writing this story and still not discover the crucial turn in the plot.

Considering how little faith I often have in simple things, this uncertainty should unhinge me. For example, I will check and double-check all the letters in a mail merge, as if the name field goblin might infiltrate Microsoft Word and match Joe’s address with Sally’s salutation. Given that impressive paranoia, I have a surprising amount of faith in this emerging novel, even though it still refuses to let me get too structured about things—no outlining allowed.

Established relationships are more comfortable, more familiar. In my already completed novel, I know the characters and the terrain—both emotional and geographical—intimately. I’m fond of the people and the place.

But this void of beginning offers a paradoxical peacefulness. There is nothing to do but wait for the novel to reveal itself. The usual poking and prodding and futurizing I engage in with the other aspects of my life will only shut the door this book-to-be is entering through.

Maybe all beginnings have this openness to them only we don’t realize it. We are too focused on getting to where we think whatever it is—our life, our relationship, our dinner—should go. We hardly even realize we’re participating in the creation of something new because we’re so focused on the completion of it.

It might help to watch more parts of my life unfold like unwritten novels that I can’t force ahead of where they are. It would help with the fretting.