For me, life is a dance between persevering and knowing when to quit. My goal is to complete and publish my novel from a place of joy, and on the days when it’s not feeling joyful, it’s hard to know whether to power through or take a step back. But today, I did my best to stick with the writing even when it felt hard.
Speaking of perseverance, the Vows Column in the New York Times recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. In order to mark the occasion, vows columnist Lois Smith Brady interviewed a number of the couples who had been featured in the column in its first few months. Among the people interviewed were Mr. Arun Alagappan and his wife, Fran Alagappan, whose story was featured in September of 1992. One of Mr. Alagappan’s quotes really stuck with me. He said: “I’ve always likened [our marriage] to building a ship while sailing it. It has not been with some grand design, and that’s one of the things that made it fun.”
I absolutely loved his metaphor of building a ship while sailing it. It felt like a good model for a psychologically healthy approach not just to love, but also to creativity, work, and life in general. I loved what Mr. Alagappan said because it acknowledged that the process of living and the process of figuring out how to live happen simultaneously. Similarly, the process of writing a novel and the process of figuring out how to write a novel seem to be one and the same!
One of the hardest parts of writing a novel for me seems to me that I often have no idea where to start when I sit down to write. The wise words of Mr. Alagappan remind me that it’s okay to not know. Sometimes, it’s okay to set sail and trust that we’ll figure out the rest when the time comes.