Our bed and breakfast season is rolling to its gentle close, with the heaviest occupancy behind us, and we're starting to have days where we are the only ones present on our hill. The colors are changing, and as a special gift, Nature has given us splendid days to enjoy here in the Piemontese hills.
It was with a sense of humor and timing that our pool pump cracked a week ago, spraying water everywhere, saying to us in no uncertain terms that it's time to end the water entertainment part of the show for the year. Since the temperature was down around 59 degrees Fahrenheit, only very brave people and Scandinavians were actually using it anyway. Whenever we close the pool, the focus of the B&B becomes the veranda in the front of the house, which yesterday looked something like this.
I'm slowly coming to the point in my year where I will start squirreling myself away in my pottery studio, realizing all the ideas I've been imagining, giving them air. And I'll be cooking, but only for ourselves and close friends, and writing.
I have a lot to say.
It was last year around this time that I had been working away on my memoir, about the days before we bought this place and how the B&B came to be, how it had changed me, molded me, made me grow up. The writing was interesting and difficult, tear filled and funny. But at some point in late November I put it aside, not sure how to proceed. Writing is funny that way. You can go for weeks just churning out words, then it's like someone turned a key, and the reservoir dries up.
Around the New Year, I was in the vegetable section of the grocery store pulling together a selection for dinner when I was hit with a thunderbolt. An idea for a novel. Now, let me say something. I've never pictured myself as a novelist. Novels were for writers with a great sense of fantasy, whereas my life has been steeped in the gritty reality of business building, cement mixing, clay wedging and breakfast making. But the idea hit me anyway, so hard in fact that I reached into my purse for a paper and pen to write it down and realized I had neither. So I left my cart standing with a Euro in it (you have to put a coin in European shopping carts to use one) and drove home, repeating out loud the key words of the idea so I wouldn't forget it.
Woman. Husband. Italy. Vineyard. Coffee. Change.
I drove home, rushed inside where the fire was roaring in the wood burning stove, and wrote what was to become Chapter 3. When my husband asked, "So what's for dinner?" I just looked at him. I had totally forgotten that I had even been at the grocery store at all.
Somewhere between bagging up a savoy cabbage and the collapsing in a word frenzy in front of the woodburning stove, I had decided to write a novel. Once that decision was made, there was nothing to stop me except for my own insecurities about not being a writer or a novelist. It became critical for me to ignore those voices as I spent at least two hours a day for the next eight months immersed in my characters and their world.
I kept writing through the busy first part of our season, stealing twenty minutes here, or an hour there, smoothing text instead of napping, letting my helper stay an hour longer so that I could just get some small details worked out on the timeline, trying to see, feel, understand why my main character did what she did and felt what she felt.
What's emerged is a 90,000 word novel, one that it is now in editing and its sixth or tenth or fifteenth draft (depending on the chapter), one that I will begin marketing soon to agents in the hope of getting it published. If that doesn't work out, I'll self publish it. Basta.
In the mean time, I want to tell you all about the process of writing it. And I will be sharing with you, here, the process of getting my novel published in a time when the chances of getting a new-writer novel read by the right people and published is almost zero.
But who cares about that. If I had cared about odds, we wouldn't have bought a pile of rocks on a hill in Italy without speaking the language. Odds schmodds.
It's not like I don't have anything to do. From early April to the end of October, we work six or seven days a week with very few exceptions, caring and tending to our guests. Our B&B is known for excellence and we cannot afford to miss a beat during the season. I am a ceramic artist, so whatever hours are not spent inn-keeping or repairing or gardening or renovating this old property are dedicated to creating an inventory of plates, bowls, cups, wall hangings, mosaics and artwork. My entire stock sold during the season, so I need to get back in there to start building up my inventory again. A task that I adore.
And for the last ten months, if I wasn't focusing on the B&B or pottery, I was writing. When I wasn't writing, I was reading, mostly books about writing. Because, quite simply, I had decided in my mind and heart to do it. To get the words out of myself and into this well-beaten MacBook that itself is looking pretty tired.
Once you decide, really decide, to do something, nothing in the world can stop you, and the Universe conspires to push you, prod you and goad you into get it done.
I'm not talking about deciding to try to do something. Trying is fine, but insinuated in trying is the sense that if it doesn't work out to be fun or right, you'll put it to the side. If you decide to do something, you work through it not being fun or right, making your decisions about its success or failure after you've finished. You stick with it. You wrangle it down like a two hundred pound marlin at the end of your fishing line. And it's when you have the damn marlin lying on the boat deck that you decide whether you like fishing or not. Not before.
It turns out that I loved writing this novel. Loved it so much that I cried my eyes out writing the epilogue. Oh, there were moments I wanted to put it aside and not go back to it. But I fought through those and wrote out options for my characters, and before long I saw exactly what the people I was writing about would do. I loved, loved, loved the process. Loved it so much that it renewed my desire to complete the memoir, which I have taken out again and read in the waning light of fall, on the hill overlooking our house.
If nothing comes of this novel, if it never sees the light of day, it was so worth the process of writing it.
But it will see the light of day. That I promise you, and that I promise myself. Who knows where it will all lead? So today, I wish that this post will be the gentle wind that guides you to decide.
Decide to do. Forget about trying. Just do it. Give it your heart and soul and mind and time, whatever it is.
Let us know what it is that you decide to do. What ideas are you going to give your all? What can you commit to from start to finish? I'd love to start a dialog of support for your process, for your dreams. A creativity dialog that will be the wind in our backs to do the things we were meant to do. To silence the negative voices and give rise to positive thought.
Once you have decided, you will see that the extraordinary lives inside of you.
Be stubborn, obstinate and clear.
Nothing can stop you.