Saturday, 2 February 2008

The light thrown by Terry Fox

snow, fairly heavy, windy, highs minus 5

Well, the car is buried under about 6 inches of snow and about half an inch of ice. Snow plow just showed up to dig the driveway out. Had to scream 'Cookies, treats!' to get Maggie and Trudy in when I heard the plow coming. These snowplows are huge things - they look almost prehistoric, with massive metal claws and shovels and flashing lights. And the guy in the glass cabin can barely see for all the snow he's shovelling and blowing, on top of the snow naturally falling. And our dogs aren't really traffic trained. Nor, it must be said, are they all that bright. Beautiful, huge hearts that I think are so big they've squeeze space from their brains. I expect they'd be no match for the snow beast.

Happily yelling, 'Cookies, treats!' does the trick. Michael also came running, so the whole family is safe.

Lovely to be snug at home as more snow falls. It's supposed to end by this afternoon, but we're in a kind of microclimate up here. On a plateau. The top of one mountain, surrounded by other mountains. We'll be snowing and 1 kilometer away down the road it'll be sunny. We quite like it. We sort of disappear into the clouds some days. They might be harvesting bananas in Sutton today, for all we know.

Started the next book yesterday. Sat by the fire. Said a little prayer. Stared at the blank page then fell in to it, like off a cliff. Trusting I can fly after all.

Had set a goal, a minimum, of 500 words. I normally aim at 1,000 words a day but have found I need to be gentle and kind to myself at first. I want to enjoy the writing and not set a goal too high or frightening. Turns out, I wrote the whole first chapter - slightly over 2,000 words.

I LOVE this book.

But as I stared for that minute at the blank page, feeling all the fears swimming about beneath, I remembered what I once read about writing. This person (I believe someone famous, perhaps one of you can attribute this) said writing a book is like driving between New York and San Francisco at night. You can't see your destination. All you can see is to the end of your headlights. And that's all you really need to see. So just go as far as the end of your headlights. Then again. And again. And eventually you'll arrive.

How lovely. And kind. And for me, true.

I also remember reading Douglas Coupland's recent biography of Terry Fox, the young Canadian who'd lost a leg to cancer and decided in 1980 to run across the country to raise money for research. At first no one paid any attention, but after a while the whole country was rivetted on this handsome boy, with his funny hop and clenched fists, making his way one painful step at a time - running. Across the country.

Coupland was given access to Terry Fox's diaries, and in it Terry said much the same thing. Every morning when he woke up his intention wasn't to run across Canada. That would be too daunting, far too scary. Instead, his goal was to run to the next corner. Then the next, then the next. Beautiful.

And that's what I do when writing books. I know, clearly, the eventual goal. I have a map even. But if I thought everyday about what was ahead in the coming months I'd crawl back to bed. Couldn't do it. But what I can do is run to the next corner. (fueled by cookies and treats)

So, it's off to the next bend in the road this morning.

Terry Fox ended his run halfway across the country. His cancer had come back. He died in 1981, at the age of 22. We still hold Terry Fox runs, and every Canadian school child knows about him, and raises money in his name.

Be well, and I'll let you know how my own run is going. If you're a writer too, just aim for the corner, even if it's only a few steps ahead.


Anonymous said...

I think it was Regniald Hill (about the headlights and the dark road).

Louise Penny Author said...

Hi Robin,

Oh, I love him. That would be great. Dalziel, what a wonderful character. So we'll say Reginald Hill and leave it at that. I met him at a CWA event in London, you know. Lovely man. Have a very blurry photo of the two of us up on our fridge.

Thanks for telling me this.

Lots of hugs,