When I went into Target this afternoon, the sun was shining. When I came out, fifteen minutes later, the skies had opened and rain was pouring down. It was one of those sharp, sudden showers with huge drops that bounce up off the pavement. I had parked some distance from the store, thinking I’d get a few more steps into my day’s total, and it was obvious that, whether I walked or ran back to the car, I was in for a good soaking.
Usually, I would have taken a deep breath and sprinted. Today, though, something in me shifted, and I decided to walk—and I didn’t hurry. I took my time, and let those big ol’ drops land all over me. When I slid in behind the wheel, I was indeed soaked. And it felt good.
As I drove home, there were moments where the drops came down so hard and fast that I could hardly see. But by the time I pulled into the garage, the splattering had changed to plipping and the sun was breaking through the clouds.
I remarked to someone a while back that, for the first time since I started writing 23 years ago, I‘ve been feeling discouraged. I’d gone from a six-year period where I’d sold a book a year—a couple of times, two—to no new book contracts in the last five years. I’d completed a project I’d worked on (off and on) over the course of ten years, and learned that I’d essentially shot myself in not one, but both feet—not only was the book historical fiction, but a sequence of short stories for middle graders. Editors told me short stories won’t sell. Even my agent told me he couldn’t sell them. I've kept writing, but I've felt lost, as if I’ve been working in a void. It’s been harder and harder to put my butt in the chair, let alone keep it there. I’ve felt my creativity drying up, and my internal editor—what I’ve always seen as a big black bird perched on my shoulder, croaking insulting remarks about my writing—has taken up a more insidious method, whispering , “perhaps you’ve peaked—perhaps you’re finished.”
I was starting to believe him. Then something changed. Earlier this week, I went through an experience that caused a definite emotional and mental shift. It was as sudden and sharp as this afternoon’s shower. And in the past few days, I’ve had a downpour of ideas, more than I’ve had in the past year or two. The sun’s breaking through. It feels good. And I’m nowhere near finished.