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Question of the Month: Anniversary

by Susan Henderson on October 1, 2012

Tell me about an anniversary you’re coming up on. It could be a time for celebration, mourning or reflection.

A year ago this month, I started writing my new novel. I learned so many lessons from the first book, and if there’s anything I can truly say I’m good at it’s learning from my mistakes and not being afraid to change course. So what guides me this time?

First, I have a road map. Driving blind may have been the right process for my first book, but this time I have a stronger sense of my journey. I think of it this way… Say I plan to drive from my house in NY to my friend’s house in San Diego. It feels sensible to know the main roads, the shortest routes, and to sketch out some places I’d like to stop at along the way. Driving blind may get me there, but the map gives me more of a guarantee, and it will save a lot of energy, not just on gas but on the driver’s stamina. Having a map won’t keep me from experiencing surprises on the road—something out the window may catch my eye, there may be an unexpected forest fire that forces me to re-route or pick up an injured passenger. In fact, the most memorable parts of the trip are likely to be the ones I can’t anticipate, and the meaning I reach at my journey’s end may be quite different than anything I originally set out to find.

Second, I’m enjoying the process, each phase of it, however long it takes. My emphasis the first time around was too often on the final product—Will it sell? Will others like it? This time I’m not interested in getting ahead of myself. Right now, I’m in most private and creative part of the process, and I’m in no hurry to involve others. Each morning I get to my office, I’m struck again how lucky I am to call this my career, and  how much I learn by wandering around the fictional worlds I create.

And finally, I am determined to have balance this time. I’m eating healthy, I’m exercising, I’m giving my eyes a break, I’m getting fresh air, and I’m enjoying my family, who can interrupt me at any time because they know they are my priority over my work.

I’m really happy with the process this time, and I’m trying my hardest to write the book I’ve always wanted to read. It’s such a welcome difference from the torment I lived through with my first. But enough of my anniversary. I want to hear about yours. Tell me your story.

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Many thank you’s for links and press this past month: Steph the Bookworm, The New Yorker, Women’s Fiction Writers, Bokkarete, Fairfield University, Sara’s Organized Chaos, Remote Appeal, What a Feeling, Twylah, The Brain and Body, Bokverdami, 2251 Wall St, TwitTVivo, Gossip Pirate, and the American Library Association.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Nathalie (@spacedlaw) October 1, 2012 at 6:53 am

I was going to return a “no anniversary at this time of the year” answer and then I doubt crept into my mind, niggling…
Hang on. I think I got married sometimes in October. Ooops. I can’t vouch for how long ago either. 2005? 2006? 2007? I tend to forget this type of details.
I do remember our first kiss though.
But it was on a 15th July (1997), so it doesn’t count for this season. ;P

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Susan Henderson October 1, 2012 at 8:16 pm

Ha! I’m terrible with remembering mine, too. And I’m relentlessly unromantic so, in 20 years, we’ve only celebrated once.

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Nathalie (@spacedlaw) October 3, 2012 at 5:59 am

We celebrate our love each day. Paperwork doesn’t need all that fuss.
(of course, that’s taking the view of someone who has always been entitled to get married – of whom it was in a way expected (and who therefore rejected it) – and of course paperwork would become so much more important the instant it is denied).

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Susan Henderson October 3, 2012 at 12:05 pm

Yeah, it’s the everyday stuff that matters, for sure. Although yesterday, we refinanced our mortgage (4% interest… hooray!) and that’s when the paperwork really matters!

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billie hinton October 1, 2012 at 1:12 pm

It’s the anniversary of our moving to our farm, November Hill. As it happens, today, October 1st, was our move-in date. The week before we moved the previous owners, also avid horsefolk, allowed me to go ahead and have stall bedding delivered as well as our first load of hay. One of my best memories of my entire life was the evening the shavings were delivered and my kids and I drove over here to bed the stalls so they would be ready for the horses. We had boarded previously and although we did self-care board, which meant we did all the work for our horses at the boarding barn, one of the prime annoyances for me was the limit on shavings per stall – two wheelbarrows a week. It was with the greatest pleasure that we loaded up three of our five stalls with beautiful fresh shavings and banked them up a foot and half high on every wall.

Today, eight years ago, the kids and I prepared for the arrival of Keil Bay and the Little Man. When the truck and trailer drove into the barnyard and we unloaded them, it felt like we were finally home. The Corgis were with us too. Not one piece of furniture had arrived, none of our belongings, but the horses were here, the pups, and us. The stalls were bedded, the hay room was stacked high, and I had the feed in cans. Two water troughs and the water buckets were full. That was all we needed. :)

Today the dogwoods have started turning and a light rain is falling. Now there are three horses, the pony, two miniature donkeys, two Corgis, and four cats. We have a burial site for our dear Chase Corgi and Keats Meow. We’re home.

Interestingly, it’s harder to write today than it was eight years ago. There is so much more to do with all these wonderful animal family members and two teenagers. But I think what I write is richer. Like you wrote, I know what my priorities are. I’m oh so interruptible! But there is balance for the most part, and that urgent need to know what will happen with the finished work is out of the equation these days.

I love what you wrote about trying to write the book you want to read. That’s what I do, and sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in other aspects of the writing.

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Susan Henderson October 1, 2012 at 8:19 pm

Oh, I’ll bet those shavings smelled so good! Beautiful story. And I kind of like that the reason it’s harder to write is that you’re so very engaged in living. I find that, too. When I play observer, I write better. When I’m a participant, I live better.

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billie hinton October 1, 2012 at 9:49 pm

I like it too – of all the reasons not to write, being engaged in life is probably the best of them. :)

Of course there is also another piece to this. When I don’t write, I get a little bit crazy. I feel the pressure of all the untold stories in my head building. So there has to be a balance. On my good days I feel really lucky that I am balancing living with my teens and husband and all the animals with writing novels.

On the lesser days…. the spinning plates in the air captures the feeling pretty well.

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Susan Henderson October 1, 2012 at 11:36 pm

I understand what you’re saying oh so well!

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Billy Bones October 1, 2012 at 8:31 pm

Mr. Lincoln started his latest W.I.P. a year ago, so I guess he has an anniversary to celebrate too. Thanks for reminding him.

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Susan Henderson October 1, 2012 at 11:37 pm

There will be cake, maybe?

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Billy Bones October 2, 2012 at 12:50 am

When he finishes his first draft there needs to be cake, maybe pie too.

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Susan Henderson October 2, 2012 at 1:07 am

Awesome.

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Sheri Reho October 2, 2012 at 1:23 pm

The most obvious anniversary for me is the one happening a week from tomorrow…the anniversary of my birth. And a big one at that…the big 6-0. Ouch! LOL

The only other major anniversary I can think of passed on July 1st. It was the 9th anniversary of my beginning a healthier living journey. Having been overweight all but several years of my life, I had been on many journeys before centered on losing weight. The difference with this one is that it was centered on improving health. And that, I have done. Perhaps even greater is the fact that this journey is the first in my 60 years that I have ever stayed with more than a few weeks or months. It’s hard to believe that I will celebrate the 10th anniversary of my journey next summer. I am not at goal weight…and frankly, don’t ever expect to be. And that’s finally okay.

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Susan Henderson October 2, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Happy birthday! And how cool that you’re setting aside the focus on weight and just going healthy. Very smart lesson for all of us. Here’s to a year of long walks, fresh air, balanced meals, … and don’t forget wine, coffee and dark chocolate, which are all good for you!

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Amy Wallen October 5, 2012 at 12:18 am

I love that you are so well settled and so much calmer this time around. I admire that. But be sure to watch out for kumquats in the road on your way to San Diego!

Anniversary: I had a very very weird realization of one today. One that my nerve ganglia remembered before my cognitive brain did. I’ll share another day, but I do find it fascinating how our bodies remember so well what our minds can choose to forget.

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Susan Henderson October 6, 2012 at 12:43 am

I hope there are lots of kumquats and mojitos on the way! I’d love to hear your story, when you’re ready. And it is amazing how memories are sometimes not available to the waking mind, but they’re there in dreams or in smells or touch, so your access to them feels slippery.

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