Friday, 11 April 2008

When losing is winning

sunny, highs 12

Do you know what just about our favorite part of being in London is? Sitting in the afternoon reading the newspapers. We get The Times, The Evening Standard and The Daily Telegraph.


It was a quiet day today after much excitement and exertion yesterday. Walked 100 miles (at least) and just had a wonderful birthday day with Michael. Dinner last night was very nice. Walked home. At one stage, closing in on midnight as we strolled through central London from Sloane Square to Lennox Gardens I wondered how foolish that was. Would the News Brief in today's Evening Standard read, 'Canadians Killed by Stupidity'? Or perhaps, 'Numb-skulls Brained'.

Thankfully, like that great Monty Python sketch, nothing at all happened.

Got home in time to call Laura at the bookstore in New Hampshire for the book club chat. We'd prepared for it - taking our new British cell (mobile they call them here) to the Orange store and topping up the credit on it. Plugged it in so there was plenty of juice. Then at 12:15 I called...and the phone refused to work. I tried again and again. Swore at it. Tried again. Spanked it a few times. Even that didn't work. Since I'd run out of sensible things to do I handed it to Michael saying, roughly, 'ah, ah.'

He used his blackberry to call and all went smoothly. It was a real gas to speak to the book club. Really fun questions about character development and where the series might be going. I totally enjoyed it. If you're reading this, Laura, or any other the others there last night - thank you!

Writing going well. Have slowed down - but feel very relaxed and calm and confident. Funny, each stage of this book seems to have a life of its own. I can see the end, I know exactly what I have to do, though the details I leave up to that day's inspiration. I'm enjoying it more, though each morning I still feel a slight tremble, a little frisson of fear. But still, I sit down and go to work.

I've said it before but I think discipline and perseverance are key to writing a book. Creativity helps - but it's far from enough. Huge creativity and little discipline or perseverance will get you nowhere. Those are often the people who have 5 partly finished novels. Which breaks my heart. Each is probably brilliant - but somewhere along the line the writer runs out of steam and instead of digging deep and really working through it, they give up.

But a dash of creativity and huge discipline and perseverance and you're off and running.

I sometimes wonder whether massive natural ability is a curse. It means the person doesn't learn to work hard. I was a terrific athlete as a kid. Didn't have to work - it came naturally. I beat everyone around at tennis, golf, swimming - any sport I turned my hand to. Then one summer I showed up, tennis racket in hand, and lost. do you know why? it wasn't because I got worse. But I failed to get better. I didn't work at it, taking winning as the natural order. So I'd spent the winter relaxing. While the other kids worked their asses off.

And beat me. I can remember standing on the court dumbfounded.

I walked off, pissed-off. Refusing to play anymore. I shudder when I think of that.

But I never forgot it. That summer and those defeats were the best thing that could have happened to me. Now I take nothing for granted. And work my ass off. And know now that when things don't go my way, and I fail, or lose - it wasn't for lack of trying. I might be disappointed, but I have no regrets.

That's important.

And so ends the sermon. You may leave now - single file. And no noise.

Be well and I'll write again tomorrow - we've had more good news (a TV interview) and some other offers.


Hilary said...

Single file. No noise. And -- at my school -- height order. This would put me at the front of the line, and you bringing up the rear, neither position one to be envied -- as a figure of authority was generally posted at each.

Louise Penny Author said...

Dear Hilary,

It also wouldn't be fun because I suspect you and I would be friends and we'd be separated by our class-mates.

Oh well.