At Night, with Headlights

E. L. Doctorow, the American novelist, is famous for saying something like this:
"Writing is like driving the car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."

(Some online versions include fog in the drive. It's hard to get a reliable source.)

Fog or no fog, that's how I'm working this week. I have this novel, see, and I have a bunch of pages of it, and I know sorta where one of the threads is going, but not really, and somehow the other thread and this thread relate. Somehow, sorta. I know what does not (absolutely must not, cannot) happen (not because it's too scary but because it's cliche), and I know what must happen for the characters to make any sense at all.

But what I really want is a Google Map, a MapQuest map, some kind of detailed map!! Or a GPS with the voice of the Old Spice Guy (James Earl Jones/Kevin Spacey) telling me when and in what direction to turn.

The thing is, Doctorow is right. I'm writing, and it's night, and there may or may not be fog, and I can see only a measured distance ahead. But as long as I keep moving, I can continue to see where to go next.

Writing isn't the only life arena in which I've desperately craved a map. I've written before about my brother, cancer, his need for a stem cell transplant, and the fact that he has a donor. He and his physicians are evaluating his recent chemo. A transplant schedule may come soon.

Or maybe not. Doctorow's rule applies to my brother's healing, as well. We have had only a rough approximation of a map -- a sketch on a napkin. As my brother reaches each milestone on the path (a second opinion and consultation, a new round of tests, a new form of chemo, more tests) the next milestone appears in the foggy dark. Maybe the transplant is still a few headlight-lengths away.

Fortunately, Doctorow's also right about this: you can make the whole trip (write the whole novel, make the whole journey back to health) that way. As long as you keep moving.