Reading the Bee Leaves

It is August. In January, I’d planned to have my book to my editor by July. It is not at the editor; it is not even complete.

If this book is a baby, then this is a breach birth. Everything is coming out backwards. My work in progress is the first in a series, but I didn’t realize it needed to be written until I had already completed the draft for the second book. That was inconvenient, but not as gut-wrenching as getting to the end of the first draft of my WIP and realizing that it is faulty.

Over the course of July, I found it harder and harder to work on my WIP. The more I wrote, the more confused I got. I started taking naps instead of writing. If you are ever me, and suddenly find you want to nap instead writing, I want you-who-is-me to know that means something is wrong. R-O-N-G, wrong.

So I stopped.

I stopped writing. I tried on the idea of not finishing my WIP, of having hours of time not dedicated to what I only half-jokingly call my “second job.” I even announced it to a couple of people, but I knew it was no use. I can’t decide to stop writing any more than a woman can decide half-way through birthing her child to just stop. The story’s coming out, one way or another.

Last weekend, I was panicked that I was stuck writing a stillborn book, depressed at the idea of all the wasted time I’d already spent working on it, and anxious to figure some way out of the mess. I also had a week’s worth of laundry to do. I took my heavy laundry basket and my heavy thoughts and went out to the garage. I opened the door to let in the sunlight, and started loading the washer as if filling it would stopper the wellspring of my dismay. It was then that I heard it.

A buzzing noise.

I focused on the sound, following my curiosity across the garage. It was a bumble bee. He was trying to fly into the opening of an air tool, but he couldn’t fit because he was holding a leaf. All six of his buzzy-bee legs were clutched around the tiniest, green leaf. He did not give up just because the path seemed insurmountable. He just kept banging his head and holding his leaf. I went to get Mr. Aniko, saying, “Have you ever seen a bee do that?” No, he hadn’t. And he pointed out that the bee had dropped several leaves on the workbench. They were not whole leaves, but sections that he had apparently cut –  somehow, improbably cut – and transported back to the power tool in our garage.

Maybe the bee had a purpose. Maybe he was just crazy. All I know is that by taking that pause, by allowing my focus to drift away from my problems with the novel, I had freed myself from the panic and doubt. So the novel wasn’t working? If the bee can keep trying different sized leaves, why couldn’t I just… try a different approach? Introduce a straw character earlier, give her meaning. Cut out the rambling (but fun!) scenes of people getting drunk on something purple. Take a break to plan what is missing and organize what is left to do.

There’s still a long way to go. The important thing is that I understand where the characters are leading me. This may not be an easy birth, but I have faith that it will result in exactly the book that is meant to be written.

In honor of that bee and his leaves, I give you Just Like Honey:

Just Like Honey, Jesus and Mary Chain


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