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Day 265: Waiting for Chimps, and, Why Writing a Novel is Like Laying an Egg

Day 265:  Waiting for Chimps, and, Why Writing a Novel is Like Laying an Egg


# of pages written: 5.5 on novel, 8 on a short story, and 1 poem

# of literary mags submitted to: 1

It’s finally springtime here in Virginia, and I’ve been taking long walks under sunny skies, admiring the daffodils and pink-flowering plum trees. Spring happens so fast! Yesterday the dogwoods held tight, green buds, and today the buds have opened into white petals. I don’t want to miss seeing the world wake up from winter.

Yesterday I looked – really looked — at a cluster of budding tree leaves. It was strange. Here was a brown, unassuming branch that had been dormant all winter, and now fresh, green life was emerging from it. The leaves themselves were tiny, spiky things, but I know they will grow large and fat in the next week or so.

In fact, I could go on a walk a few days from now and see that all those leaflings have turned into full-fledged leaves – snap, just like that. I know it must happen little-by-little that the buds open and grow, and yet I never witness the growing process itself.

I  thought maybe I should sit under the tree and watch the budding leaves — see for myself how they emerge and grow. But I don’t know if I’d actually be able to see such microscopic changes. And I definitely don’t have that kind of patience. I’m not Jane Goodall.

Primatologist Jane Goodall, from Time Magazine

Primatologist Jane Goodall, from Time Magazine

Speaking of, Jane Goodall is in Richmond today. That’s right. The Jane Goodall, Goddess of the Chimps, is giving a lecture tonight, and try as I might, I wasn’t able to get tickets. I’m pretty upset about it because I think Jane Goodall is a brilliant, fascinating, and beautiful human being, and I’d love to hear what she has to say about chimps, or anything, really.

There’s this famous story about Jane Goodall as a very young child. She had gone missing, and her mother had called the police. When they finally found her, she was in the hen house. She had been there for the past five hours watching the chickens, because she wanted to see how a hen laid an egg.

If you read her book, In the Shadow of Man, you’ll see that she kept this patience and curiosity with her while studying wild chimpanzees. She would sit still in one spot for ten hours a day, for weeks at a time, waiting for the chimpanzee troop to come so she could observe them. She would often sit there all day and never see any chimps at all at all.

Iconic Jane Goodall photo from National Geographic

Iconic Jane Goodall photo from National Geographic

For the past two weeks I’ve gotten serious on the new novel I’m writing.  haven’t been doing any Kerouac-style marathons, but every morning I sit down and write at least a few pages — usually an average of five pages a day. But guess what. I’ve now written 100 pages.

When I noticed that, I felt kind of shocked. I’m already at page 100? I guess my novel is like those leaflings. It’s growing little by little, so that I hardly notice it’s getting bigger, and yet, when I take a step back, it seems like it happened so fast.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have quite a ways to go. It could be that I realize the story really doesn’t start until page 100 and I need to scrap the first 99. It’s like Jane Goodall waiting for her chimps — sometimes you write all day, and you can’t use any of it.

But I’m hoping that, little by little, day by day, I will create something of which I am proud. A beautiful, white egg of a novel with a  golden center.

A hen can lay an egg in a day. How long will it take me?


P.S.  I have currently made it through Round 1 of NYC Midnight’s Short Story Challenge and am working on my Round 2 story, which is due tomorrow at midnight!


About evalangston

Eva Langston is a writer, among other things.

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