The State of the Middle
I’ve been spending a lot of time in my yard. This year’s yard work goals are almost complete—I’ve been occupying some spaces with grass and others with irises so I won’t have to weed the bare ground there ever again. Of course that means this year I do have to weed them. Lots. Also, my vegetable garden is succeeding this year. The major discovery of last year’s experimenting was that I couldn’t handle all the garden space that I had, and I couldn’t handle it being on two sides of the house. This year I planted a garden one side and seeded grass on the other. Yesterday I mowed that grass for the first time. It still needs to fill in a bit, but it’s holding out the weeds now. Mostly.
I’m still plugging away at my draft, which has become increasingly first-drafty as I go. This happens. Every day I write something half-realized and tell myself that I can fix it. My brain just can’t lay a novel down in its full flesh. It has to come out in layers. Just because the first fifty pages of this one came out more developed than normal doesn’t mean I’m now writing the middle parts wrong. (This is odd for me. Usually my first-draft middles are much better than my beginnings.) I’m well past the halfway mark, and it’s going faster now. On to the finishing, and then to two revision projects.
I read an article the other day that suggested it was healthy to always consider yourself to be in the middle of things. That way, there’s no waiting for things to begin; there’s no slowing down because you are at an end. There can be no picking up pace to race to the finish, and no figuring out where to start. There is just the work ahead today, because you are ever in the middle. I love this idea, especially as it pertains to my work and my home life. I am ever in the middle of keeping my house together, ever in the middle of taking care of my child, ever in the middle of writing my words. There is no beginning or end to these things–not anymore. There’s no sense rushing through it to move on. There’s no sense waiting for some new beginning. There’s just the work ahead of me today. And you know what? I love it. Every bit of it. Even messy parts.
Talking about my work, though–one of the things that I do to alleviate the writing blues is to plot future, sneaky undertakings. Plodding through the middle-book blues especially makes me feel subversive. It’s not as if I’m subverting anyone’s goals but my own, of course. But my relentless scheduling of myself makes me want to do something to shake up the schedule entirely. Something creative and unexpected, even to myself. But because I’m me, I have to plot these things. I have to plan them. This is ridiculous and contradictory, which, in truth, is my favorite way to be. I’m plotting subversiveness for a few days in August. These little spurts of different are what recharge me for the day-to-day work, even when they fail.