Thursday, October 18, 2012

Writing Stories

I haven't been doing much crafting lately. It's true! And it's a rather strange thing for me not to give into every creative whim. (I usually begin each weekend by making a list of things I would like to make, practical or not, and making them just because they sound like fun at that very moment.)

Instead, I am using this lovely cool autumn to focus my efforts. I am reading a lot. I am going to finish Robb's sweater if it kills me. And, most importantly, I have been learning how to write again.

I have been reacquainting myself with that odd mix of anticipation and frustration that comes with yearning to sit down and write a story--knowing without a doubt that you have something to say--and then just as your fingertips are about to touch the keyboard, not being sure that you will say it correctly.

I will be in the midst of writing dialogue and think, no no no, this is all wrong. This character would never say it this way. And then I keep going, just doing it wrong.

I have spent too many hours on 500 words, rewriting, rephrasing, cutting, adding.

I have had moments of elation, where I strike clear down to the bone of what happened. And I have had moments where I am sick to my stomach, calling up my own stories--the ones I don't like to tell--and integrating them into the plot line. Sometimes your own stories are the most important ones to tell; to put them into a story is a way of extracting them from yourself. After all, if left to their own devices, these stories will knock against the walls of your stomach in endless circles.

There have been lots of treats. A tall canister of whipped cream sits in the fridge and occasionally gets shook up and applied to the top of extra fancy homemade iced coffee. There have been bowls of salty popcorn and cool slices of cheese that I eat before bed. There might be a sundae in my future tonight. These are my rewards for having sat down and continued the story.

I'm not sure yet if I'm writing a story or a novel. All I know is that it ends with knitted bikinis, and I feel relieved to know the ending. Aren't you intrigued? Me too.

I heard something recently that was said by Deepak Chopra in the back of a van while he was being interviewed by Rainn Wilson (it's really worth a watch if you have a few minutes). He referred to the creative process as "divine discontent." This is how we feel when we aren't sure how the story is going to tell itself, when it's not yet clear how we are going to create what is in our mind's eye. His theory is that this is when we are at our happiest. When we are making art that only we can make, and when we are solving the riddles that are involved in making it.

I adore this theory. I really do.

Which is why tonight I tried to write a scene with an old man and a young woman, and when I discovered that they didn't know what to say to each other, I didn't panic. I just haven't worked it out yet. Who they are to each other, how it would feel to be in their shoes. It will probably come to me while I'm walking, and I'll need to duck onto a stoop and jot down a note. It will be something mysterious that will only barely make sense to me later, like "Egg McMuffin!" or "His wife is dead!" (And yes, these notes usually have exclamation points, because when you figure out why your character is where he is and is behaving in that particular way, it really is quite exciting.)

It's all exciting. Every bit of it. Even the never-ending sweater I'm knitting which I will the rare moments when I'm not stuffing my face with reward cheese.


  1. Are you doing NANOWRIMO? Or OCTOWRIMO as it may be?
    Carry on!!

  2. Ha! Yes, I suppose I have been doing my very own Octowrimo, though I've really gotta pick up the pace if I'm going to hit 50,000 words by Nov. 1. Maybe I'll do Octemberwrimo?

  3. You're making me all excited for November! (Including the race, and seeing you, and talking about all of this, and WRITING my own stuff. Wow, there's a lot to be excited about in November. And cheese!)

  4. I'm so glad that cheese-eating and novel discussion are both acceptable activities the week of a marathon. We need to have something to do during all of those hours when we're not drunk!