Even Then I Was Working

I learned early on that some of my best work came to me when I was doing absolutely nothing. Adam never understood. I could see the irritation in his expression when he’d come home from work and find me on one of the pool loungers, my eyes shut and my skin dark. But I was always working. Even then I was working.

These words come from Slow Burn, and they belong—as you might have guessed, if you’re familiar with my fiction—to Joel. I’m appropriating them today to explain why I’ve been so quiet lately: on this blog, on my Facebook author page, on Twitter, on Instagram.

I’ve told you before that I feel a dip in between books. Finishing Slow Burn was no exception. I know what’s coming in the next novel; I’ve already written almost one hundred pages. Given that those scenes were planned for Slow Burn, I assumed I’d move effortlessly from one book to the other. Instead I’ve taken a break, what started out as a two-week hiatus sometime last spring and stretched across the entire summer, most of which I spent sitting on my settee, watching the birds in my birdbath. Every so often I’d feel a wisp of breath from the Muse. Then I’d look out my window again.

I knew I was cultivating something anyway, something I couldn’t yet see.

That’s Joel again, talking about a pause in his painting in the summer of 2007. Without that pause, Slow Burn wouldn’t unfold in the same way. Joel’s art would take a different turn. So would his relationship with James. His entire life would change if he put those months to a different purpose.

Of course, in the end you might wish that Joel had never taken time off.

For my part, I appreciate the time I’ve spent on my settee. Even if I haven’t been sitting with an open laptop or posting on Instagram, I know I’ve been working.

Now comes the fun part.

Copyright © Jennifer Hritz All Rights Reserved

My Own Exquisite Puzzle

“I could never write a book,” someone said to me recently. “It just seems so hard.”

But writing books feels so much easier than anything I’ve done so far today. Writing books feels easier than waking up this morning at 5:15 for no reason I could ascertain, then falling back asleep about five seconds before my alarm went off. Writing books feels easier than discovering we have a third “snow” day here in Austin, Texas, and knowing that the novelty has totally worn off for my bored, eleven-year-old son. Writing books feels easier than trying to convince my son that if he’s old enough to listen to music with explicit content on Pandora, he’s old enough to step up and feed the damn dogs. Writing books feels easier than trying to capture my terrier as he tears around my backyard, howling at the Weimaraner next door. Writing books even feels easier than writing this blog post, which I’ve done with interruptions to make hot tea and answer a phone call and retrieve my son’s favorite stuffed bat from the clutch of that demon terrier’s tiny jaws.

Getting into Joel’s head and writing his story? That’s nothing. It’s not even work. It’s the best kind of play. Even revision doesn’t feel tedious to me.

Occasionally when I’m on Twitter I see tweets from writers talking about how difficult they find the writing process. I never understand.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying I find the process effortless. Sometimes the words don’t come as quickly. Sometimes I work for hours and come up with nothing more than a single paragraph. But even then I don’t feel like I’m working. Instead I feel patient and grounded and wholly curious about what comes next.

In The Crossing, Joel says:

James is […] something I can’t wrap my head around under the best of circumstances, and which tequila renders downright impossible. He’s mystifying, a puzzle exquisite in its intricacy, the one thing I want to figure out. At the same time he’s the simplest thing I know right now, my one constant other than the painting, as sure as the feel of that brush in my hand.

I feel the same way about my work.

Copyright © 2014 Jennifer Hritz All Rights Reserved.