Where I Want to Be Right Now

Middle of the Book

“In the middle of [writing] a novel, a kind of magical thinking takes over. To clarify, the middle of the novel may not happen in the actual geographical center of the novel. By middle of the novel I mean whatever page you are on when you stop being part of your household and your family and your partner and children and food shopping and dog feeding and reading the post—I mean when there is nothing in the world except your book, and even as your wife tells you she’s sleeping with your brother her face is a gigantic semicolon, her arms are parentheses and you are wondering whether rummage is a better verb than rifle. The middle of the novel is a state of mind. Strange things happen in it.”
— Zadie Smith, Changing My Mind

I’ve always loved Zadie Smith’s description of how it feels to be in the middle of a big writing project. In the section I’ve quoted from, she goes on to describe the magical thinking that accompanies this state of mind. The way everything in the world seems relevant to what you’re working on and everything you see, hear and read becomes another lesson or hint about what you need to write next. It’s the ecstasy of writing–the flow, the madness.

The middle of the new book is where I want to be for the rest of this summer, possibly longer. I’m not there yet, but the car’s all loaded up and I’ve put a hold on my mail and I don’t care if the lawn dies. Let’s go.

Image: The unexpectedly sexy gutter of Thomas Jefferson’s Bible via a post on restoring the same from the blog of The National Museum of American History.


Leave a Reply