Surprising and Not

'Tis the season to think about consumer goods. Lots of stories in the zeitgeist about shopping, budgeting--holiday extravagance and how to avoid it. But I've been thinking about the goods we have and use every day.

Last night I noticed that I'm usually surprised when we run low on coffee filters, even though we use at least one a day, and I KNOW that we do. 

On the other hand, I'm rarely surprised when we're low on dish soap--also used daily, also by me.

That set me thinking about other pairs.

I'm surprised when I use up a tube of lip balm. I'm not surprised to use the last Q-tip. 

I'm surprised to use up a glue stick. I'm not surprised to come to the end of a roll of tape.

We're low on cinnamon--surprising. Black pepper, cloves, chili powder, and curry also fall under the same "we never use the whole jar before they mysteriously disappear" assumption. (I also don't remember buying chili powder, so how old IS it? A separate issue.)

In fact, all the contents of my spice shelf seem to stay there forever, or at least until I cull them. 

In conversations with other writers, I've learned that being too close to a work makes it difficult to judge whether elements of that work are surprising, and therefore possibly interesting, to a reader. 

I'm currently trying to select a piece to read at the book launch (in under two weeks!), so I'm considering what readers might find interesting to hear. Thank goodness I have other writers and readers in my life to ask. I may never have enough distance to know, myself.

My husband's novel-in-progress, on the other hand, fascinates me. I read and gave notes on an earlier version, so this time through isn't completely UNfamiliar, but his revisions still create surprise. 

I'll be happy to return to my own novel--it's had two drafts this past year, and it will get another, smaller revision soon. It will be fun to see what surprises it holds for me.

Having the time and support for in-depth work on a single writing project is such a glorious gift. It's a chance to fully inhabit a world and spend significant time there. 

It's a gift in another way, as well--a chance to stand back and look with new-ish eyes at previous work. 

Lots of gratitude around here these days.

And now, it's time to put on another pot of coffee (we have plenty of filters at the moment), and while I wait for it to brew, I'm going to peer at the dates on the spice jars. Some surprises are more welcome than others.