When the Plan Comes Together by Tom Rich
I work as a hospital IT trainer; my particular role is to explain to the nurses and anesthesia staff who work in and around the operating room how to do their medical charting in our new electronic system. Recently, my boss asked me to learn how to do the same thing for the pharmacists. Dutiful worker bee that I am, I went down and got the training materials - lesson plans, work books, handouts, and so on - and began to study them, while also taking time to watch more experienced pharmacy trainers do their thing. Keep in mind that I studied writing in school, so my knowledge of pharmacology and hospital medication management boils down to "yep. Those are things that exist, all right."
At first, the whole thing was jumbled and deeply confusing: lessons without context, activities that meandered off into the distance for no result that I could see, lists of training patients and their medications like a wall of ancient runes. But, eventually, there came a point when the pattern emerged, the logic of the lessons became apparent, and I began to see not only what was on the page but how each piece fit in with the ones around it, and how it fit in with the rest of our electronic system and the physical work of the pharmacy staff, and how all of that might coalesce into a class.
What surprised me at that moment was how similar it was to the point where a book really comes together. Oftentimes, as I read the first few chapters of a novel, I don't have a great sense of the big picture, which makes sense. There always comes a point, though, where I latch on and connect with the narrative, where I slap hands with the writers and say, "I don't know exactly where we're headed, but I see how we're getting there, and I'm with you. Let's do this." I've taught myself to hold on for an awful long time looking for that moment.
The same kind of moment exists in my own writing, too: working along, jotting down notes, writing out scenes, sketching maps and timelines, and then all of a sudden I see daylight between the trees and go for it; the patterns begin to fall into place, I pick up the story's tune and tone, and the real work begins. Easily one of my favorite parts of the process.
There's a flipside to that moment, though: it can be painfully difficult to remember what it was like before. How many of us have showed a beloved book to a friend, only to have them not make it to the tipping point, and we're completely unable to see how they could miss what's so great about the book? How many times have you started a new project and been shocked--shocked!--to find that getting going isn't as easy as the momentum you had when you were deep into the last one?
Learning to recognize and look for that feeling has helped me overcome a lot of false starts, both as a reader and writer. If nothing else, it's a neat feeling when it does come along. Happy writing!