Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sharpening My Axe

Once upon a time, two woodcutters challenged each other to a contest. The woodsman who could cut the most wood during daylight hours would win. On the appointed day, when the sun rose, the men started chopping. Throughout the day, one man chopped steadily. The other man took frequent breaks. When the sun went down, it became clear that the man who had worked steadily had lost. "How can this be?" he said to his opponent. "I worked without ceasing. You stopped so often!"

The winning woodsman smiled. "When I stopped, I sharpened my axe."


I've been digging in on my Jane Eyre re-writes like a crazy woman. All in all, it's been going well, but reworking a 100,000-word historical novel is no small task. I reached my saturation point last Thursday. Suddenly I couldn't get any traction. I spent the day working and reworking a single section and still didn't like what I had. I started to feel overwhelmed.

Isn't this cover gorgeous? Love it!

Months ago, I had scheduled a presentation at Murder on the Beach, a lovely independent mystery bookseller in Delray Beach, Florida. The date that once seemed so far away was now imminent.

My sister Jane called me with a proposal: She'd drive me to Delray Beach, if I'd agree to come with her on over to Cape Coral. She had tickets to see Kip Winger, the composer and singer, who was performing in Cape Coral.

"I've booked a hotel room. You'll have peace and quiet.  A change of scenery will do you good. You can sit in the room and do nothing but write. I'll bring you food," she said.

I went back and forth about her idea, but finally, I decided to go with Jane. For one thing, I was too tired to drive safely down and back to Delray Beach!

Admittedly, I felt a bit nervous. I kept thinking, "Maybe I should just stay home and write." However, on the way to Delray, Jane and I worked through a particularly sticky plot point. She then helped me think through another change I wanted to make. We even brainstormed Book #2 in The Jane Eyre Chronicles. My sister is an excellent sounding board!

Saturday morning I woke up very early and got to work. Jane started reading this newest iteration of The Jane Eyre Chronicles. When I took a break, my sister hugged me and said, "You are a wonderful writer! I love what I'm reading!" For the rest of the day, I sat there on the hotel bed and wrote while facing a beautiful view. True to her word, Jane brought me coffee and food. I reworked 40 pages. I mean I flew through my material! That night we rocked out to Kip Winger. Today (Sunday) we got up early and drove home. Since arriving at my house, I've been working for hours, and another chapter has shaped up nicely.

Best of all, I feel reinvigorated.

Before I left I was banging my head against the wall. Sometimes we keep trying harder when we need to stop, re-consider, and work smarter. Sometimes we just need to sharpen our axe!

How about you? Do you ever forget to sharpen your axe?


Liz said...

Aren't sisters wonderful.

Judy said...

I envy you such a wonderful sister. Never forget how blessed you are to have each other.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Judy, my sister reminds me, "We are a small clan." And we are, so we have to be there for each other.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Liz, you can't imagine what a loving and wonderful sister Jane is. Someday I'll do a blog post just on her!

Linda O. Johnston said...

Great story, Joanna. Love how your sister acted as an aide and inspiration!

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Yep, she's a gem!

Betty Hechtman said...

Nice to have such support.