Sunday, 7 March 2010


sunny, mild, temps minus 2

Another beautiful day. Went out to Cafe Floral in Knowlton for breakfast with Linda and Bethany, while Bal and Michael had breakfast at another table. Bal's a fascinating man. The father of palliative care in Canada. One of those people Michael and i realized we both knew before we knew each other. Michael and Bal were friends and colleagues - both being doctors within the McGill teaching hospital network.

And I knew Bal from having interviewed him a few times on issues of terminal care, of assisted suicide and euthanasia, pain management. And then I spent a few years volunteering at his Palliative Care ward.

So when Michael and I got together Bal was a mutual friend. I remember showing up, together, at a party at Bal's home the first Christmas Michael and i dated. Bal opened the door and saw us standing on the stoop...and his eyes dropped to our hands. We were holding them. And Bal, bless his heart, started to tear up. And he hugged us both and said, 'Two of my favorite people are together. I'm so happy.' And he was. And is. He and Linda are two of those rare people who can genuinely feel, and share in, other people's happiness.

Bal also knew, first hand, what a great gift our love was. He'd been Michael's first wife's palliative care physician, and managed her care until the day she died, in his ward, Michael by her side. So he knew Michael's great grief, and he now knew Michael's great joy. And mine.

We'd sort of drifted apart for a number of years...and then caught back up a couple years ago. And now they're among our best friends. As Linda says, kindred spirits. it's fun that Linda is close to my age, and Bal is close to Michael's. Linda's a former teacher and sensible, sensitive and very, very funny.

It also helps that Bethany, their daughter, is 14 and just an amazing girl.

So it's lovely to have them in the cottage for these two weeks, but the timing is poor since I really need to concentrate on writing. I'm in 'quarantine' as Linda puts it.

But I managed to slip out of quarantine for breakfast this morning. But, as a result, it is now 5pm and I've just finished writing for the day.

Very difficult day writing. This is the price of going out to play. I get distracted and lose track of the story. Which is why I don't do it often. There's a time for everything, and this, frankly, is the time to focus and to write. But, it was worth it...

the problem was, as I think I mentioned yesterday - I ended chapter 3 not totally sure how chapter 4 should start. And when I sat back down at the laptop at 11:30 - full of scrambled eggs and muffins - I still didn't know. I tried a few sentences out.


Chief Inspector Gamache...

'Hello, numb nuts.' you can guess who.

but none was right. Couldn't tell you why, I just knew this chapter should not start with any of those people... so I stared. I made cafe au lait. I made sandwiches. I got more firewood. But always, always, imagining. thinking. Trying to see...

Then I wrote:

Inspector jean Guy Beauvoir...

And I knew it was right. But this was four words and that left 1496 still to write today...and I had no idea what they would be. But I did know - at a level I can't explain - that those four words, and all they meant, were right. That was 5 hours ago. And now i"ve staggered to a stop. The chapter's a little (well, more than a little) ragged. But I'm too tired to think anymore. tomorrow morning I'll be fresh and be able to edit and smooth.

Some sections are just difficult...often the transitional ones....and some just fly along. this is a difficult section, for some reason. I used to think if a section was difficult it must be wrong, but now I've fine-tuned that feeling. I know can tell, more sense really, the difference between a section that is wrong, and a section that is right but just hard.

It's wonderful to know that now. I didn't with the first two, perhaps even three books. It just comes with experience. And confidence to trust that 'knowing'...the instincts. And trust that if i've made a mistake that's part of the process too, and I can always fix it in any one of the 4 or 5 edits I'll be doing on the finished manuscript.

Well, off to feed and walk Trudy. She just plopped her considerable chin on the keyboard...then ellipticate - then zone out.

Hope you've enjoyed your weekend!


Marjorie said...

"Hello Numb Nuts" made me laugh because, of course, I did know exactly who was saying it!

Don't you get to take the weekends off from the writing? Or do you not want to lose your momentum?

--Marjorie from Connecticut

Louise Penny Author said...

Hi marjorie,

No, that's it. Momentum - and I know there will be unexpected breaks in the writing, so I need to get as far as i can while I can. It feels a bit like priming a pump, or climbing a mountain. Quite difficult at first, but if I just keep at it, it gets easier and easier and eventually I hit that amazing, wonderful stage where it all comes easily. Just pours out. And the only thing stopped me each day is exhaustion, not lack of ideas, or fear. That's the drug. What I crave. But to get to that I need to go through this. And I dare not stop for fear i won't start again.

Sue Mom of Two said...

When you list the temperature is it Fahrenheit or Celsius? Just thinking it is AWFULLY cold for March!