85th Street and Third Avenue, New York City

I was running the other night, heaving and hauling myself across 85th Street, when something clicked. I’d been ruminating about the novel I’ve been writing and rewriting for an embarrassing number of years. With each draft, my story got a little better, but something still wasn’t working. When I finally screwed up the courage to let someone read it, she confirmed what I knew: the main character was boring. He didn’t know what he wanted or what he believed. Of course he was boring: the main character was me—or some elderly, nostalgic avatar of myself.

So I went for a run because I didn’t want to start smoking again, and I was gasping and sweating and hating myself because I write so slowly while everyone else seemed to be cranking out new books every few days. I wanted so badly to finish this novel this year. Instead, I was once again dreading the chore of taking yet another stab at improving the main character’s wants, needs, and flaws. Then a thought landed in my head that literally stopped me in my tracks on the corner of Third Avenue: Just get rid of that guy. He’s dead weight, so ditch him. Replace him with the lady who’s been lurking at the margins of the story, the embittered Olympic diver whose devotion to a strange ritual accidentally maimed her neighbors and sent her daughter running into the night. She has flaws and wants.

Everything started clicking into place, and I haven’t been this excited about writing in a long time. It was liberating to realize the world I wanted to build would become much more interesting if I removed myself from the equation.

And yet. Here’s the reason I mention any of this: I resisted this idea for two solid weeks because the thought of undoing all that work and deleting all those words was too much for my pride to bear. My ego revolted. Look how much time you’ve spent on this! It’s good enough! But I know this story can be better, and that idea on 85th and Third Avenue was a rare gift, one of those moments of illumination that happens every five or six years, if I’m lucky. And who am I to turn my back on such a thing?

MMMD – Egoismo

Pèkisyon Funebri | Antifrost, 2016 | Bandcamp

An all-time favorite: slow-motion strings and liturgical drones from Athens, Greece.

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