Planning is the Secret

You would think I would have known better. After all, whenever I work with an individual, company, congregation or other organization, I always stress that I can help them achieve whatever their goal is, but we both have to be clear about that goal before we start. We have to know where we’re going before we start driving there, so to speak. So, as I said, you would think I would have known better.

Yet here I am, half way through National Novel Writing Month, already 50,000 words into the novel, and do you know what revelation I just had? I don’t know how the book ends.

When I started writing, I had a premise. I figured that I would figure out the plot as I went along. It would emerge organically. Which was working quite well for me, until I reached the 50,000 word goal, and realized I didn’t know how much more I had to go because I didn’t know where I was going. Oops.

A long walk later, some thinking, and I think I have the an ending. It’s somehow “bigger” than I was imagining. More over the top, but I think it sort of fits the tenor of the story. As I write towards that goal, I’m sure it will shift some, that it will morph a bit, change in ways both small and large.

What I find most fascinating about this whole process is how far I got without a coherent  plot. Most of what I’ve already written will, in fact, be used. In fact, one or two pieces that I couldn’t quite figure out why I was putting in when I wrote them now make far more sense. Most of what I wind up tossing will probably be things I wrote in the last day or two, when I felt a little like I was beginning to spin my wheels.

And while I’m enjoying keeping you all updated on my blog, I’m afraid I have to go now. You see, I have a novel to finish.

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Baby Blanket: Starting a New Relationship

Some very close friends of mine just had a child. In response, as the knitter I am, I am responding in the only appropriate way: knitting a baby blanket.

I want to create something soft and usable, which will be loved for years to come. I want to be able to protect and comfort a child entering into a world which is often threatening. I want to knit the closeness of my relationships with the infants parents into the blanket. I recognize I’m loading an awful lot onto this little blanket. I know it is very  possible that the blanket may be deeply appreciated by the parents, and completely snubbed by the child, and that’s okay. What’s important is that I make the effort.

Eva is also participating (the blanket is being worked in strips, so Eva is doing some, and I am doing some), which is an experiment, in that I’ve never worked collaboratively on a knitting project before. It adds an additional layer of complexity to the feelings. How do I know what she is kniting into the blanket (I know the sentiments will be positive, and appropriate, but they aren’t quite mine in the same way)? But I want Eva also to be able to take part, and so I’m sharing. Also, I’d like it to get done soonish, and having Eva also work on it helps in that effort. But it is a bit of  an exercise in letting go–which is probably healthy for me.

As I knit this blanket, I’m wondering who the child will be. I’m wondering what our relationship will be. It’s a conversation Eva and I have had with the parents, and while we’ve discussed our ideas and hopes, obviously the infant has not yet been consulted, much less the adolescent the infant will someday become. We set a plan in place, and wonder what it will become.

In the meantime, strips of a baby blanket slowly materialize off my needles.

Planning a Wedding

I’m going to spend a couple of hours this afternoon planning a wedding. Not mine. I’m happily married, and fully done with the details of our wedding, thank you very much.

No, this is a wedding I will be performing. And this afternoon I will be having the final meeting with the bride and groom.  We will iron out the details (which are basically all in place) and make any last minute changes. In part, the real purpose of this final meeting with the couple is very  often simply to reassure them that all the pieces are in place and that everything will be fine, and all they really have to do now is show up and they will be married.

I love performing weddings. As a rabbi, I’m invited into a couple’s relationship in an intimate way: I’m given a chance to talk with them about how they feel about each other, and how they wish to express those feelings in front of family and friends. Under the chuppah (the Jewish wedding canopy) there are three people: the bride, the groom and the rabbi. It’s a privilege to be trusted to help a couple begin a marriage, and a joy to be a part of their excitement.

Which means, even when I’m a bit tired (as I am this afternoon), even if I have a few other issues worrying me (which I do this afternoon), I know that the energy and excitement of the impending wedding will buoy me up, and I’ll be swept along as we make the final plans.

The last thing I do at a final wedding meeting is to take a few moments, and ask the couple to remember why we’re doing this: that is to say, to focus on their love and the reason for the marriage. It’s an opportunity to let any odd family dynamics fade into the background (and there are always some odd family dynamics around weddings–it’s the nature of either families or weddings, I haven’t, yet, figured out which). This is the opportunity for the bride and the groom to take a deep breath and acknowledge that regardless of whatever details of planning remain, the important thing is that in less than a week, they will be married. Everything else is just window dressing.