Deb Vanasse | Hazards in the High Beams

Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.  E. L. Doctorow

I hate driving at night. Give me daylight, sunshine. Let me see where I’m headed. But that’s not the province of a writer.

Whenever I’m in the final throes of drafting a novel, as I am now, I’m struck again by the truth of Doctorow’s metaphor. These many months, I’ve been inching along, feeling my way from one landmark to the next, never seeing my way clear. Then all at once, the end’s in sight.

Relief. Home’s right down the road. It feels like a straight shot. You want to speed up, drive right at the edge of those lights.

Don’t do it.

Covet the fog, how it slows the wheels, shifts shapes till you can’t make them out, makes you question what’s real and what’s not. Your book benefits from that tension, that uncertainty. From that need to trust.

No high beams here. They’ll blind you.

Your reader creeps along with you. Patient. Attentive. Aware, knowing you can’t go faster, not here.

At last, beyond the low places where fog confounds the journey, you flick on the high beams. With acute awareness, a heightened sense of vision, you see the sharp edges of everything.

It all comes clear.

You’re almost home. And when you get there, it will feel all the more exquisite, all the more satisfying, for having felt your way through the fog, for having trusted, for having let the lights show the way.

Co-founder of 49 Writers and founder of the independent authors cooperative Running Fox Books, Deb Vanasse has authored seventeen books. Among the most recent are Write Your Best Book, a practical guide to writing books that rise above the rest; Cold Spell, a novel that “captures the harsh beauty of the terrain as well as the strain of self-doubt and complicated family bonds; and the “deeply researched and richly imagined” biography  Wealth Woman. After thirty-six years in Alaska, she now lives on the north coast of Oregon, where there’s plenty of fog.

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