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Earlier this month, I was feeling frustrated by the length of time it is taking me to finish my novel. I came up with the concept and started working on it four years ago, and right now all I have to show for it is an outline and ten finished chapters. And I've been practicing at writing novels even longer, for almost double that time--about seven years. The more I thought about it, the more discouraged I felt about ever completing my book.

But then I went outside yesterday and counted my apples.

Three years ago, just before conceiving Nux Gallica, I planted three spindly little apple trees in my front yard. Some people teased me, saying they were scrawny, ugly things that wouldn't produce anything for many years. But I knew then that planting seedlings, like trying to conceive a child or beginning a novel, was the start of a long-term process.

I conceived Nux just about a month after planting the trees and about five months after starting my current novel, Briars and Black Hellebore.

Today, I have a beautiful, healthy, fun, and bright two-and-a-half-year-old daughter and a crop of 18 homegrown, organic apples--fruits whose value is so much greater because of how much they delight my child. She takes so much pleasure in picking and eating those apples that you'd think they were made of lollipops and chocolate cake.

And these two wonderful things happening in my life--my daughter growing up so fast and harvesting delicious apples from the trees outside her bedroom window--were absolutely worth the wait and couldn't have been rushed.

The same is true for my novel. When I review the timeline of my life, I realize that most of the time my novel has been in progress, I've been pregnant (which came with a host of distractions from creative work) and raising a small child. I forgive myself for not writing more prolifically while I've been in the midst of such a significant and all-consuming phase of life.

And when I look back at the other novels I started and worked on before Briars, I cringe--and I also feel proud of how far I've come as a writer. The wisdom that comes with writing practice, extensive reading and research, maturity, and even motherhood is something that could not have been rushed.

After biting into my first apple of the season, I feel a renewed excitement--and maybe it's also the turning season and that ingrained excitement that builds toward the start of a new "school year" even if we haven't been to school in years--and a refreshed sense of patience for the kind of produce that takes a good, long time to ripen.


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