Last summer, a sand mite entered my world. Lying on my beach towel, head on folded arms, I was trying to figure out the novel I’m currently writing, when my eye opened a slit and there he was, coming straight for me.
Without the parameters of lake or grass that were apparent to my vision, that stretch of sand must have appeared as a vast Sahara without beginning or end. Yet, propelled by some intuitive directive force, he did not hesitate.
Playing god, I reached out my arm and put my finger in his way. He scurried along its length, first one way, then the other. He tried climbing without success. Bored with my play, I scooped up some sand and buried him and went back to my mental torture.
But that sand mite wouldn’t leave me alone. Maybe I should have given him more time, went my thought. Maybe he would have figured it out. Then I thought how writing a novel is a lot like crossing the Sahara without a map and running into obstacles and you have no idea what these obstacles are (you just know something’s not working) let alone how to surmount them, how like the sand mite you try various ways of going around or over, how god sabotages your efforts.
In a matter of minutes I was in total empathy with that sand mite. We had the same job description, troubleshooting an obstacle course. We were both dealing with a larger force that deliberately sabotaged our efforts.
So then I had a good talk with myself: surely you have more patience than a sand mite. You have to keep trying. Rah rah. Blah blah. Maybe if you keep trying, god will become bored with the game and lift his finger.
Hold on! (I must have raised my head with the surprise of the epiphany.) I’m not the sand mite. My novel is the sand mite. I’m just an instrument, a means for the novel to get itself down on paper. It’s up to my novel to find direction.
What’s wrong with you, stupid novel? I’ve done my job. I’ve written you so many times, from so many different angles. I’ve written to the left and right and over and under, each attempt ending up like a pile of steaming cow flop. I’m fed up. It’s time you did a little work. It’s time you turned that cow flop into compost. I’m tired, I need a holiday. I need to sleep in the sun on the sand.
Having divested myself of responsibility, I put my head back down and was just dozing off when it came loud and clear: the trouble with you is you don’t listen.
You don’t listen to what I’m saying – I can’t carry the weight of too much complication. Or, I’m hamstrung with these lame brain characters. Or, you expect me to make this plot believable? Or, you expect me to build something on such a faulty, weak, shaky, structure!
The protests mount: I can’t stand myself. I’m confused, I’m incoherent. Nothing here makes sense. I feel like deconstructing.
The novel begs: I need more time. Don’t let me die a premature death by squishing my creative heart.
I opened my eye, and darned if that sand mite hadn’t burrowed himself out of the sand and was bustling toward me again. Full speed ahead, damn the torpedoes. Again, I put down my finger. Again, he travelled its length one way then another. Thinking to put him out of his misery, I was about to pick him up between thumb and index finger and squeeze (take that you stupid sand mite!) when he made a sharp turn and scurried around my towel. The last I saw of him he was rounding nearby towels, a picnic table leg, a beach umbrella, to who knew where. But his course was steady.
I turned over to tan my front and immediately fell asleep.