I had lunch with a friend at a Chinese restaurant yesterday. We ate massive quantities of eggplant and pork and talked about the weird minutiae of our lives. She’s also a writer, so we talked about work. I am 25-30 pages away from being done with the first draft of the sequel, and I was complaining about how ugly the draft is and how much revision I’m going to have to do.

“Well it’s just like you told me once,” she said. “You have to get all your messy obsessions and passions out in the first draft. Then you have to go back and make it into a book that other people can read.”

“When did I say that?” I said.

“Back when you were talking to me about my draft. Remember? How you have to pull out all the raw, feral parts and refine them, and layer them back in? How you’ll worry that the book is losing its heart when it loses the naked histrionics, and yet once it’s done you’ll look and everything you love is still there, not lost, but better?”

“That’s all true,” I said, “and you make me sound like an intelligent person. So how come I’m not that smart right now? Why do I forget this stuff?”

“I think that’s just how it works when you’re all up inside it. You can’t see yourself. Other people always look clearer to us. But I know exactly how you work: you’ll get all frustrated and hate everything and be convinced it’s the worst book ever, but three days later your shower will talk to you, you’ll fix it, and then you’ll be like, ‘That? That was nothing. The solution was right there the whole time.'”

I laughed, and we finished lunch. When the fortune cookies came, she opened hers first. It said:

Half of being smart is recognizing the ways in which we’re dumb.

“Dude!” I said. “I think you got MY fortune.” But then I opened up my own and it hit me so hard that my voice got stuck and I couldn’t read it out loud. I had to pass it across the table so she could read it to herself:

It’s not the end yet. Let’s stay with it.

“Yeah,” she said slowly. “I’m pretty sure that fortune is yours.”

I’m not superstitious, but the cookies were spooking me. I stuck my fortune in my wallet, in hopes that it will jump out at me when I least expect it and scare me all over again.

Speak, friend!

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