Savoring the Moment - in Life & in Literature
My 18-month-old daughter Mélanie and I have a routine on most days. In the late morning, we go to the local outdoor mall and settle in at the Peet's Coffee & Tea, where the staff are incredibly friendly and welcoming (where I sit now writing this post and sipping a latte while Mel eats fruit salad). When she's ready for the some play time, we talk around the mall, play with the toys at Pottery Barn Kids (where they are also incredibly welcoming), look at the clothes at J. Crew (ditto on welcoming and where Mummy has been known to use our rambles as an excuse to pick up a new pair of ballet flats or a cardigan). And we almost always visit the play park. Mélanie loves other kids and there are almost always kids to play with at the park. One afternoon this week we met a nice family with a very cute 10-month-old. For once Mélanie, who tends to be the one of the younger ones in a group of kids, was the big girl.
Like me, the 10-month-old's mom was telling me how she's trying to savor every moment of his growing up. It was such a good reminder to hold on to the moments. Like sitting on a bench with Mélanie that same afternoobn sharing her first ice cream cone. Or stopping at an outdoor restaurant last night after a local Art & Wine Festival and appreciating Mel's dexterity with the tortilla chips as she sat up like a big girl in her high chair.
Revising my WIP, I began to think about savoring the moment as a writer. Particularly in historical fiction, it's often those moments that make the setting and era come to life. The shimmer of candlelight on damask wall hangings. The sent of the orange trees in the Jardin du Luxembourg. The gnarled branches of the plane trees in Berkeley Square against the pale charcoal of a twilight sky. Doing up the strings on a gown, lacing or unlacing a corset. Yet at the same time, lingering too long over such details can slow the pace, particularly in historical suspense which I write. Sometimes in revisions I find myself pruning to hone in on the key details that bring a scene to life and make sure I'm moving from plot point to plot point. Other times I layer in more details. Or I realize I need some quiet moments of my protagonists savoring their own life in order to give a contrast to the adventure (particularly true in my WIP as Malcolm and Suzanne have a new one-year-old). I'm never quite sure I get the balance right - it's difficult to judge in one's own book, though I do find it a bit easier on a revision, when I've had a couple of weeks away from the manuscript.
What moments in your life have you stopped to savor recently? Writers, how do you find a balance between lingering over moments and descriptive detail and keeping your story moving forward?
photo: Raphael Coffey