Shaving* naked in front of the mirror last night, looking at the new roundishness of my abdomen -- a pregnant muchness that wasn't there three months ago, back before my gym closed -- I thought of personal growth, the kind of growth that derives its substance from too many bags of microwave popcorn and too many Christmas cookies and too many pieces of Belgian chocolate (oh thank you very much, my beloved patients, but don't you realize that if you kill me, I won't be here to take care of you?) Turning this way and that, trying to find some angle where I didn't look like Demi Moore on the cover of Vanity Fair, only, you know, hairy, suppressing the urge to take a scalpel to my flesh because what the hell good is it being a surgeon anyway if I can't even fix blubber belly, I reflected (in the mirror, get it?) that this was why I loved writing. Think about it. Friends drift away, love affairs fly apart, bodies go to hell, and yet our writing chugs on, barring hard drive crashes, fire, floods, and fiction-hating dogs, of course. Every bit of writing we do improves us as writers. Well, that one month foray into screenwriting put me into an extended writer's block, but I still learned from that, didn't I? (Yeah. You learned not to fuck with me, sailor. -- Doug's muse.) And I may have spent my first two years and 100K words of 'serious' writing on a project that went nowhere fast, but if I hadn't done that, could I have written a 300K word novel that actually went somewhere? I don't think so. What's my problem with scale, anyway? I've sold flash fiction and stories in the 4K to 6K range, and I've written a humongous novel, but I can't manage to turn out a modest 90K novel. But I digress. Writing is the one compartment of my life where I feel like things are getting better**. I may be getting poorer thanks to this money pit of a house, and I may be getting older and fatter and balder, but at least with writing, if I put out the effort, I have something to show for it: not just the words on the page, but also an internal maturation which makes it possible to do that much more the next time my fingers hit the keyboard. So I'm shaving, looking at that 4-month-preggers so-not-a-six-pack of mine, and I'm thinking, Maybe there is something growing in there. Maybe I could take that 2001-2002 project of mine, Karakoram, and turn it into something 90K-ish, tight, interesting, funny, poignant -- in short, everything I wanted it to be when I first got started. Maybe I can do that now. Yeah. D. *My face. Detail added for Maureen's benefit. **Before you ask: no, there's nothing wrong with my marriage. Knockingonwood knockingonwood knockingonwood.