It’s a chilly morning here in Silicon Valley; grass is crunchy, breaths are puffs. I know this because I stood in our doorway, peering to the white-tipped front lawn as my husband left for his walk, wearing his silly hat. He wore it last night as we strolled the sand at The Hook in Capitola, a very low tide providing all the stretch of beach one will see for many months. The tide was at -1.5 feet at 4.14 p.m. yesterday; I have never seen it so low.
I love walking the beach when the tide is out; I feel like I’m traveling on a new part of the earth. Late yesterday afternoon my husband and I, along with many others, took advantage of nature’s willingness to bare some of her beauty. This morning is crisp and cool, not that the beach was overly warm yesterday, but what a difference a few hours makes; today at ten a.m. the tide crested at 6.3 feet.
What impressed me yesterday was for how low the tide was, the sand was still wet. The water had peaked yesterday morning at nine a.m., had probably stayed fairly high for much of the day. But by four in the afternoon, another world was revealed. And now it’s covered again, waves smashing against the cliff.
Tides are cyclical; maybe writing is too. For the last two years, publishing has been my focus, which means big revisions, formatting documents, choosing covers. (I don’t do the actual designing, but I give my two cents.) I wrote some in 2012, but not as much as in the last few years; I know this because I just examined my writing timeline; good grief, it made me dizzy. For a time I was spewing manuscripts like I would never get another chance to write.
During those days (mid 2009-mid 2011) I also took a lot of photographs in Capitola. How I managed all that, well, I wasn’t publishing for most of that time. The other thing I noticed in the writing timeline was how quickly a novel went from conjuring the plot to plunking it on the keyboard; a matter of days for some manuscripts. I’m glad I have that timeline, even if it made me a little nauseous. Amazing what the brain and body can manage when the right conditions exist.
Like watching the tide, so low, but I’ve seen it smashing against the cliff side, gotten attacked even. My husband was a little leery, wondering if I wanted to walk along the waves last night. I smiled, said getting biffed by the ocean once was enough for me. All I wanted to do was set my feet on ground rarely trod. That sort of low tide happens once or twice a year.
I feel a little like that now, slacking on the publishing while returning my attentions to writing. Don’t get me wrong, the thrill of releasing books is pretty darn heady, a giddy bliss setting a novel in cyberspace for all eternity. For as long as the internet exists, as e-readers continue to light, my stories live and breathe, as beautiful to some as the ocean is to me.
But there wouldn’t be any publishing without writing. The creative shove as a vague notion becomes concrete notes and a playlist, oh man, that’s just as intoxicating as uploading a formatted document. One of those courageous new ideas has been gnawing at me; I’m listening to the playlist while writing this, spent early yesterday afternoon sorting details. I’ve edited a couple of chapters on Penny Angel, but more yanking my chain is a novel still with no firm title, but a thumping heart that has wedged itself deep in my soul.
I can’t say which is more pleasing; publishing a book or pondering its beginnings. Both are magical, like low and high tide. I think I like low tide better; I’m leaving my footprints in the sand, even if for only moments. I can’t be a part of high tide, other than observing and snapping it. As for outlining/plotting a novel and publishing one…
That’s sort of like the chicken and the egg; can’t have one without the other. I will say this, plotting is less stressful, more enjoyable. It’s freer, but the payoff isn’t nearly as visible. Many books remain cloistered in the hard drive, their existence only as dates on the timeline; when I came up with the idea, started writing it, then completed it.
A published novel earns a blog post, a gorgeous cover, readers. But all the books I’ve released stand upon the shoulders of those dormant; if not for those previous words, the published ones wouldn’t exist.
When I pounded out all those stories, it never felt like work, in that I had no control over plots and ideas; I typed what came into my head as easy as breathing. Publishing is far more intense, and while I don’t wish to go back to those more carefree days, I am enjoying slacking off a bit. Going to the beach was necessary, especially with my hubby along.
Also just as lovely was plotting out the next book before we traversed Highway 17, before the tide slipped so far away. Now he’s on his walk, the tide is high, and I’m mulling over where am I right now.
I’m a novelist, charting yet another course of this journey. It’s always in some new place, even if I’m just sorting out one more angsty drama. Like the tide, once again pulling from, then smashing into, the shore.