Nicole Dieker is already thinking about the ways in which solving the problems in her novel are like solving the problems in a Mozart piano sonata.
The first big change, after I came back from vacation, was the way I ate breakfast. (The hotel had this thing that was essentially a giant bowl of fruit with a handful of nuts and cheese cubes mixed in, and I ate it every morning I was there and have been recreating it every morning since I got back.)
The second big change was that I (finally?) broke the cycle of going to bed between 11 and midnight, waking at dawn, and taking a nap in the middle of the day to make up for the fewer-than-eight-hours-of-sleep. Our hotel room had blackout curtains, and because of that I got into a sleep cycle that took me from about 11:30 p.m. to 7 a.m. — and even though we don’t have blackout curtains at home, I have somehow broken myself of the habit of rising with the sun.
Which, I mean, thank goodness. I was wondering how long the nap routine would last, and it was getting tiring (pun intended) to lie down in the middle of the day, every day, for a 45-minute sleep.
The third big change is that I started rewriting a novel.
L and I were talking, as we are wont to do, about what we’d like to do with the rest of our lives. We both want to become absolutely exemplary pianists, even though we always immediately modify those ambitions with “I mean, I want to be the best pianist I can be,” giving us the possibility of sub-exemplarism if that’s what our best turns out to become, and then I jack the ambitions back up again by saying “and I want to compete in the Van Cliburn amateur competition and the Paris amateur competition before I turn forty-five.”
We also want to continue working towards polymathery, with our chess study and our Gödel, Escher, Bach and so on. Between now and when I turn forty-five, we’d like to study chess, math (neither of us learned calculus the first time around), Go, bridge (we started getting into bridge last summer, but there’s only so much you can do if you don’t have a second set of people to play it with), origami, and drawing. Maybe a language or two. Maybe ballroom dancing.
“I guess I could figure out how we could become chess grandmasters,” I said, “even though the internet says that the best way to become a grandmaster is to start studying chess when you’re three years old. But we could come up with an action plan to get us there, and even if we only won some local tournaments, we’d still get to keep everything we’ve learned.”
“I’m ready to put a good chunk of our free time into studying chess,” L said, “but you know what I think you should do instead of trying to become a grandmaster, right?”
“YES I KNOW,” I said, in exactly that tone of voice. “I SHOULD WRITE ANOTHER BOOK.”
“Yes,” L said. “You should write another book.”
And then I told him that I had these two novels that I had drafted in 2018 and 2019, neither of which I was completely happy with — though one of them had potential, and I just happened to have the first chapter printed out and tucked into my bag because I had already known he was going to bring this up, and now I was going to read him the first chapter and maybe he could please tell me if he thought I should continue working on it.
He definitely thinks I should continue working on it.
This is worth noting, because when I was doing some musical composition work earlier this year (and, like, earlier last month), L essentially said “this is competent but kind of derivative,” which was fair enough, we both trust each other to say whether or not something is any good, and my compositions were at least as good as a college-level final project but not much better than that.
When I read him the beginning of my story, he said “I want to know what happens next.”
Luckily, I have most of it already written — so he won’t have to wait very long. ❤️