I’ve been having a beastly time with the chapters I’m working on now. My characters are not speaking to me. That’s a writerly, romantic way of saying I’ve lost contact with them, I’m not seeing them.

I’ve hit that patch of despond every writer knows:

“I should give up writing.”

“I’m no good at this.”

When not writing (that is, wrestling), I’ve been compulsively reading a wonderful novel: The Lovers by Vendela Vida.

It’s a short, elegant, emotionally gripping story.

And word perfect—the sort of novel that makes any writer envious. In my present mood, I was flushed with a feeling of awe mixed with inadequacy, and so it was with relief that I read in the acknowledgement the author’s long list of readers who had helped the novel through “its early and inelegant forms.”

This is a beautiful novel, and I find it perversely reassuring to know that it, too, was once an ugly duckling.