Thursday, January 10, 2013

slowly but surely

Here's the thing: I like a challenge.

If you've read WICKED AS THEY COME, you might've noticed the interwoven theme: easy things are worth nothing. You've got to work for what you want, put away the fear and barrel through. And although I don't necessarily set out to make my own life harder, I have a habit of taking the briar-ridden road-less-traveled instead of the paved, sunny highway.

When I set out to buy a horse, I knew what I wanted. My dream horse would be a gaited paint, less than ten years old, easy keeper. And that's exactly what I got. But I also knowingly bought a horse that was, as her previous owner described her "hard to catch". For the un-horsey, this means that when you walk out into the pasture, instead of running toward you, the horse runs away. See how that might be a problem?

Luckily, I've dealt with this problem before. My last horse was a stubborn little critter, and the first time I went out to catch her, it took three hours. Within a month, she was running toward me, whinnying. But horses are fickle. They're herd animals, which means their actions are based on fear and mistrust and avoidance of discomfort. Therefore, if someone, say, put a horse in their back yard in a too-tight halter that put a crimp in her nose and only caught her when he was going to mess with her, she might run away from her loving new owner.

In one month of having my horse, we've made a lot of progress. She used to run away from me. Now she walks toward me. She used to turn away when I held out a hand full of grain; now she stretches out her neck. But she's still skittish. Just this week, I finally convinced her to touch me of her own volition. Now she curls her head over my shoulder, snuffles my hand. Just today, for the very first time, she let me touch her neck while she was eating, all the way down to her shoulder. And it's a really big deal. Because no matter what the movies might tell you about spurs and whips and crops, when it comes down to a girl and a horse running free in a pasture, only patience and gentleness will win over those big, liquid eyes. Horses remember people who go all cowboy on them. That's why they start running away.

When I first started writing, I thought that I would get to a point where it was easy, where the first draft amassed all my knowledge and skill and wouldn't require as much work. But first drafts, like horses, are individuals. Each story is different, flawed in a unique way. And like horses, I seem to be called by stories that are damaged and need a little coaxing.

It doesn't escape me that this week, I had a breakthrough on my YA edits and a breakthrough with my horse. I am not a patient person. In fact, I am possibly the most impatient person on the planet. But there are two spheres in which I am patient, gentle, calm, placid: horses and words.

Could I have solved the edit problems two months ago, when they arrived in my inbox? Maybe. I could have found a way to force it. But it might not have been the right answer, the solution that makes my heart light, that makes me smile. I know, deep down, that the story finally has come together, that I'm going to be proud of it when it comes out in 2014. And I'm glad I waited.

So here's to patience and little victories made, slowly but surely. Here's to doing things the right way, even when you suffer outside criticism from people who don't see what's happening behind the scenes. Here's to putting down the whip and picking up the sugar cubes. Here's to the leap in your heart when things finally fall into place.

Here's to horse spit on my palm and demons on my desk. Amen.


Wendy D. said...

Great post! And love the pic!

Jon Plsek said...