My current work in progress is a revision of an earlier manuscript that failed to find a home with my current publisher. I considered publishing it myself, but decided instead to revise it. In the process I have pulled out one short story about sailing and am now rewriting the novel.
At first the prospect seemed daunting, but, as often happens, it put me in mind of an earlier challenge. Some years ago I had a problem with a project and wandered out back to run an idea by my husband. Husband was digging a hole in the ground. My in-laws did this often, so I didn't think much of it. I continued to describe my problem, got the appropriate grunts and hmms to indicate some attention from Husband, and returned to my desk.
My first problem was solved but another one came along. I went out back to speak to Husband, who was now deeper into his hole. Curious about why the driveway drain was in the spot it was in, he had decided to dig down and see what was there. My problem also seemed to be growing, so I found a folding chair in the garage and sat down in the driveway to describe my dilemma while he continued to dig. This intermittent digging and consulting in the driveway went on throughout the summer. The hole got deeper and my problems more complicated.
But the hole also produced some surprises. Like a good first draft, the hole was more than a hole.
Throughout that summer, almost twenty years ago, Husband dug and Wife talked while sitting in the shade along the driveway. Stones large and small flew out of the hole as Husband disappeared up to his shoulders. When his head was no longer visible, the rocks were noticeably heavier and some, too big to toss, had to be shoved onto the nearby lawn. But they kept coming.
As Wife came to the end of her first draft and related problems, Husband was no longer in sight, and the pile of rocks on the lawn was large enough to give one pause. What on earth were we going to do with them? They weren't exactly like an extra character that could be killed off in a story.
The last rock was gigantic and its extraction required mechanical assistance. Husband hitched up his little sports car and we pulled the last rock from the hole. We still didn't know what to do with them. Husband and Wife are practical sorts, and one of us said, We could build a stone wall. Now, Wife was not familiar with this sort of labor, but then, neither was Husband. We set about manhandling the rocks of all sizes into some sort of order, which seemed preferable to leaving them spread all over the back lawn. The end result was as much of a surprise as the initial discovery, but much nicer.
This is where I expected to extol the virtues of perseverance, but perhaps better would be to point out the importance of curiosity. We have a lovely stone wall, the envy of a few of our neighbors who have paid dearly for theirs, and all the result of my husband's curiosity about an old drain in the driveway.
And my manuscript? That was the summer when Anita Ray came to light, to appear several years later as an Indian American photographer living at her aunt's tourist hotel, light of her life and bane of her existence.