I picked up a little book by Ann Patchett yesterday at our tiny, busy library. I'm a huge fan of her novels and this looked like something I could read while the drawbridge was up or I was stuck in traffic, which happens more and more frequently this time of year. (Spring breakers, go home! Just kidding, we need all the visitors we can get.)
But back to Patchett. I love her writing. One of my all-time favorite books, bar none, was Bel Canto. In this book-- WHAT NOW?-- based on a graduation address she delivered at her alma mater, Sarah Lawrence College, she gives writers a piece or two of excellent advice. Toward the end of the essay/ speech, as she's explored how she came to the place she is now, she finally figures out What Now is always "going to be a work in progress. What now was never what you think it's going to be, and that's what every writer has to learn." She goes on to compare writing to duck hunting, an analogy my childhood amongst hunters allowed me to understand:
Fiction writing is like duck hunting. You go to the right place at the right time with the right dog. You get into the water before dawn, wearing a little protective gear, then you stand behind some reeds and wait for the story to present itself. This is not to say you are passive. You choose the place and the day. You pick the gun and the dog... But you have to be willing to accept not what you wanted to have happen, but what happens."
There's more. But I'll let you read it for yourself. It won't take long. Just long enough for a long line of cars to proceed through a backed up tollbooth, or for the drawbridge to let a few boats in. Just be sure to turn off the car and enjoy the sunshine.