Columbus is the eighth cloudiest city in the country, and after spending a year in a very bright desert, I’m savoring the gloom. I’m still turning up at the library to write fiction every morning, and I’ve been pondering why I’m good at doing a particular task every day or not at all. If I aim for three or four times per week, I’ll push it around until it dissolves.

I’m starting a new book while I wait for my first novel about a loud god to cool off and collect feedback from a gracious reader. Then I’ll spend the spring and summer revising it a final time before I harass agents in the fall.

This new novel started while dredging up the half-finished short stories I’d squirreled away in various clouds and drives. The ones I expected to be worth finishing were ponderous and concerned with “themes.” Then I found a ludicrous three-page thing I wrote fifteen years ago about a cage fight at a nursing home. It was terrible. But a line from it kept nagging me: They returned to the old ways and shaved their heads, grew their fingernails long, and slicked themselves down with baby oil. I wanted to know the conditions that could bring such a world into being. Perhaps a reader would too.

So here I am, five thousand words into something I can’t distinguish from worthwhile or ridiculous, but I’m having big fun writing again. This is important because I’m certainly not doing it for money.

Starting a New Big Thing has taken the weight off the Old Big Thing and made writing feel much less precious and fraught. How many times have I encountered this advice in writing how-tos? Put your draft in a drawer for a few months, they say, then start something new. But I have a knack for taking the longest, most taxing route to common knowledge before finally climbing out of the muck and saying ah, right, there’s wisdom in that.