Sunday, August 10, 2008

Ramblings on Story and Writing

Writing is frustrating. As I watch good stories on TV and read good books, I catch tiny tiny glimpses and feelings of... something. Something true or at the very least desired, something I want to put into my own stories. I've always felt that way, I think, it's just that now that I'm actually writing and attempting to exercise the urge I can identify it more often. I can see that I really do have a desire to write and not just a desire for a desire to write. But writing is so very slow! And it's tremendously encouraging that I do have this desire for it, that I seem to have always had it without really seeing it as such. But even if I can identify now with bits and pieces of the things great writers have said about this act of creation, even though that's hugely encouraging -- I know that it doesn't mean that I have the talent that they do. I may sound so wise if I quote Tolkien or Lewis and say that's how I feel about ___, but it doesn't really mean I am. I'm a child playing in a sandbox.

An ambitious child, though. Not only do I want Aedhira and the rest of it to work, to come together, to be finished so I can share them with you, but I want to be published. And not just published, but successful enough to support myself! Ha! I want to make my living at it, devote all my time to writing. Even though I'm ridiculously undisciplined right now, and most of the slowness of writing is my own fault. Partly it's just me being ornery. I'm an idealist, and I think a person ought to be able to make a living doing what they love, linguistics or writing. And not by teaching or working for the government, either. I've talked about that on here before. In fact, part of me is downright terrified by other people reading about Tessa, or Lariel, or Aethwen. It's so dreadfully personal. And I still don't even know whether I really do love writing! But... maybe I really am compelled to do it, as the great writers talk about. I can only hope that I do have some shred of talent, that it will be enough.

Contrary to the advice in The Weekend Novelist, my characters are multiplying like rabbits. I recently had a new story idea I love. But then it tied in with one of the Aedhira sequels, and then a new character (Aethwen, as I'm calling her) came out of it, and then Tessa had to push herself into this story as well, and this sequel already had a main character! So now I've got at least two main characters in Aedhira, three important ones here, and a different main character in the other sequel. Bleh. One. There's only supposed to be one of you. Or one per story. Stop splitting yourselves. And that's another thing. Now I've been working on this sequel instead of Aedhira. I take comfort in the fact that all writers are supposed to go about the process differently. It gives me permission to trust my instincts and have fun in my sandbox. But still, the sequel? Now? And if I do NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November and follow Joi's advice about doing it with something new, that'll be a third story... the stories might multiply like the characters. I guess it's okay as long as I really do go back to the first and finish it at some point. I guess that's the most important discipline, the vital one. Finishing. And so back to my prayer (in every sense of the word) from years ago, soon after the initial idea in Village and Tribal Cultures class, that this story idea would become real, that it would manifest itself on the page and not just stay in my head, in unfocused daydreams before dropping off to sleep. It's come farther than others. But still, that's not enough, and maybe it never has been enough. I wish, how I wish, that all the experience I'll gain from writing this, all the growth, could be applied to it, my first effort. This is my world. All my ideas come back to it. I desperately want to do it well, not finish it and move on to do something else well. But all I can do is keep writing.

A week ago today I wrote a poem that is much, much more vague than is generally my style. Sorry. It was inspired by Kathleen Norris, and since she's a real poet...

This is what I wrote in my journal: "Today and yesterday I've been reading The Cloister Walk. It's got me feeling poetic, and in general like I should write.

She shuts herself in
so no one can see
'The words won't come,'
she says.

'Little girl, little girl,
where have you been?'
'Off to the market,
to buy a red hen.'
'Little girl, little girl,
come back to me.
Tell me about your day.'

They say just to write,
Be messy.
What have I got?
Don't know.
Beautiful, earthy, chaotic...
but not?

Back to the story,
back to the song.
Back to the words
I had all along."

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