Each time I open the document I am working on most, my new novel, a little flag appears on the bottom right, welcoming me back and encouraging me — Pick up where you left off. Then it tells me exactly when I was last there. It can be 32 minutes or 6 hours or a day, or it can be two or three days or even a week. I used to feel a little guilty, that I wasn’t working hard enough, that I had abandoned my work. I needed to remind myself that at this point in the writing process, even when I am not on the computer, I am writing.
I may be writing new pages in my notebook or I may be reviewing and editing the last chapter I wrote, or I may just be thinking, asking myself questions, picturing the characters talking or looking at something, and I wonder. As I drive to my grandson’s school in Billerica, I wonder how my characters feel about driving; as I scrub a pan or wipe down the counters, I wonder how they feel about cleaning; and as I cook dinner, I wonder how they feel about cooking. When I pick up the mail, I wonder what they got in their mail that day and if they know their mail carrier.
Sometimes they tell me right away and give me a deeper sense of who they are and I make pages of notes. Sometimes I don’t get answers right away, but it still helps to ask the questions that usually lead to more questions. And if I continue to question and listen hard enough, they will be answered in time.
I need to remind myself that until I have a first draft, much of the writing won’t be done on the computer. It will be done by hand and heart and head. After completing one novel, I have come to develop a profound respect for the process. At this point, where I left off is only part of the story.