One chapter at a time. Less than that. A quarter chapter, and the boulder rolls backwards, smashing my toes, grinding against my shoulders. The grit on its surface irritates my face. The damned thing lodges on things I cannot see, and all I can do is push.
I am in the final third of Sherlock Holmes, The Ghosts of Savannah, and pushing hard to keep the rock moving up. This is a harder book to write than the huge Blooded Cross that I first worked on with Cass Johnson, long ago. At least then I had a friend in the same struggle with me. Ghosts is only a fraction as long as Cross’s nine hundred plus pages, yet finishing a novel of 100k words is much harder than allowing yourself to just write and write and write. It all has to work and nI must work it.
I wonder about old Sisyphus, pictured above. With each hill he encountered with his boulder—before it ran back down behind him or bounced down the other side—did he know how high the hill was? Did the boulder itself hide the top of the hill from him down there in the depths of Tartarus? He was being punished for his self-aggrandizing personality, his deceitfulness. Have I committed the same sins in saying “I write novels?” The gods could have just made a writer who was always past his deadline.
Yes, I get away from this boulder, from time to time, exercise to ease my stiff back, read, watch a movie to get my thoughts away, but the boulder is still there, the complexities of part three always on my mind. And there are more boulders, on other hills, other books that stay in my mind. Often, those boulders have rolled back down into the long grass at the bottom of the hill, the hilltop covered in mist. Some teeter atop their hills, hoping to be noticed, though a single stray thought about them will dislodge them and down they go, bouncing back down the hill to get tangled in the weeds. Other boulders and other hills languish in the Tartarean dark, consigned to Jasper Fforde’s “Well of Lost Plots.”
I feel like we are all pushing boulders up hills: Covid-19, an upcoming election, a career, a bathroom remodel that goes on and on. When we get to the top of this pandemic, this election, this project, there are always more boulders to roll. And yet, in all of this, I think I get the necessity of one of old St. Paul’s most difficult injunction: Pray without ceasing.
I am only free from all when I pray.