Monday, July 28, 2014

Writing Days 11/12

Okay, so what can I say about this weekend. . . well, I guess I would say "interesting" just about covers it. Did I get a lot of work done? Ummm. . . not really. Did I learn a lot. Yes, yes, I did.

I started out the weekend with high expectations. I was able to get so much writing done over the week that I just knew this weekend would be full of writing genius. I set everything up to work - as is my habit - black notebook, 2 blue ink pens, cigarettes, and Diet Coke, all laid out and ready to go. I sat in my favorite spot on the front porch, opened the notebook, and. . . nothin', absolutely no single thing came to mind. I knew where the story was going. Knew what needed to be said. Knew where my character needed to go next, what she needed to do, and what obstacles were to be laid in her path. Still nothing.

I began doodling around the edges of the paper and thinking about the story. I wrote a sentence, then another, then a paragraph. And the entire time, the voice in my head kept saying, Crap! This is crap! What are you doing?

I wrote a second paragraph, finished a page, then two. But, I still couldn't shake that voice. No, no, NO! This isn't right at all.

Now, before I continue, I feel it's necessary to mention that I do not actually have schizophrenia. However, I have been living with this story for much longer than I have actually been writing it. When you read interviews with writers, many talk about writing as a kind of itch in their brains, something that keeps them up at night. That sometimes a story demands so insistently to be told that it will wake them in the middle of the night and refuses to quit until they get the ideas down on paper. That has happened to me for as long as I can remember. I sleep with a notebook and pen beside my bed (have for years and years) just so I don't have to completely get up. Hoping that if I can write it down quickly enough, I may actually be able to just drift back off to sleep quickly. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't.

But I digress. This story, and perhaps more importantly this character (Verity), has been rattling around my subconscious and my journals since an early creative writing class I took back in the spring of 2009. That is a long time for someone else to occupy that very personal space. By the time I actually started the story in 2013, Verity had already been present for four years, creeping around the periphery and pushing for her story to be told. She has changed very little over the years, other than aging a bit (she began life as a teenager, but she now lives quite happily in her late thirties).

Struggling through those Saturday morning pages, the voice seemed familiar, but I couldn't quite place it. I took a break. Walked around the yard. Then, it hit me. Verity! And, man, she was not happy with me.

I went back and re-read what I had written. Verity was right. It was crap. At this point in the story, Verity is returning to her old home place for the first time in many years. All the family is gone and all that remains is her great-grandmother's old empty house. Besides being a pivotal piece of the story, this is an important moment for Verity - an exorcism of demons, in more ways  than one. I did not do it justice. I did not do her justice. And she let me know that quite plainly.

 I knew it wasn't right, but the words still refused to come. So, what did I do?

I stepped away. I played with my granddaughter. I watched Frozen three times in a row. I went grocery shopping. I cooked supper. I took a breath. Sunday, I watched movies with my daughter and paid a long overdue visit to an old friend. I thought about the story, dreamed about it even, but did not pick it back up.

Driving the dark tree-lined road to get back to town, I realized what needed to be done. A field trip is in order. I already have it planned for Wednesday - just me, Sis, and the camera.

Until then, what's on tap for the novel? Well, fortunately for me, while this is Verity's story, it is also about her telling the stories of others. So, while her story is going to go on hold for a moment, she is going to go ahead and tell the others' stories in the meantime.

She and I are both very happy with this arrangement.

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