Yes, neighborhood Fight Club is back. Just now I looked out the window and two big girls were bravely punching each other in the face and seeming as if they weren't so much enjoying it. I bet.
There are some 50 people in our neighbor's yard, gathered around a makeshift boxing ring. They're drinking and cheering each other on. The first time this happened, we were sort of amazed and appalled. Now, it doesn't seem like that big of a thing. They're not making that much noise, and above the whirring of two big box fans, it just sounds like kind of a muted yokel-roar with the occasional cheery whistle. All in good fun. [snort!]
The heat wave continues, though it isn't as bad today as the past several, and tonight it might even rain. (Please o please.) I have my laptop back with a pristine new keyboard. It is ready for a new book. I tried to download Scrivener, but it doesn't work with my operating system. [frown] Seems I shall be writing another book in Appleworks. That's fine.
Yesterday, with the full force of two fans pointed at me, I worked on the first few pages of my new book. I had already written this first few pages, by the way. Months ago, in a needed interlude from that other book. But. I am a notorious tinkerer with beginnings. Oh, how I labor beginnings! But today I moved forward to the next few pages. Into the scary unknown.
How exactly does one begin a book? It's so hard every time. I recall that the beginning of Silksinger was fraught. Terrifying. And I have been so excited about telling the story I am now setting out to tell, and I am excited, but when you stop daydreaming about something and begin it, well, for me, the terror kicks in. I've been building up this story in my head for months, and now I have to -- ulp! -- write it down?
How do you create a character?
How do you get to the meat of the story, hook a reader in, hopefully fascinate them?
How do you create a convincing world?
I don't know. You just write. You write a lot, and much of it will be bad, and some of it will be good. And you keep the good, and write a lot more. And so on. I wrote Not For Robots as a procrastination tool when I was still in the early stages of Silksinger, and it was very useful to remind myself of things that I know. Like: the story only happens once you start writing it. No matter how complete an outline or synopsis, you don't really know what's going to happen until you're in the story. There is a magic that happens in the act of writing, where it becomes a collaboration between You and Mystery. Story comes down from somewhere, ideas blossom from nowhere, you have help from an invisible, unknowable source. I'm not saying it's really a muse, but it feels like that. I think we get ourselves into a state where a new realm of our brain opens itself up and gets into the act. That's the real muse: an often untapped, mysterious region of our minds where creativity resides. Part of the challenge of writing for me is the seek that region. Some people find it more easily than others. Perfectionists like me have a hard time, because we're like entomologists: we're down on our hands and knees in the meadow of our story, peering at bugs through a magnifying glass. If we can get up and sort of. . . romp in the meadow, then something magical might happen.
That's what I think, anyway. I try to push myself toward that place, and often I fail. I've learned to keep trying, to insist on defeating my worst tendencies. If something doesn't come easily to you, don't take that as a sign that you're not meant to do it. I used to get so defeated by hearing writers gush about how "the characters took over, the story spilled out of me, etc" -- and sure there were times I thought that it is supposed to be like that, and if that wasn't happening to me, I wasn't really a writer. But sometimes now it does happen, because I show up and work for it.
Here's a quote from a dance memoir I just read for research:
"It is safe to live in one's own well-worn groove where one is comfortable with one's chosen limits, chosen measurements of success and failure. But today as I pirouetted straight through the limits, I knew I could do more and then more again. For one triumph leads to another, on to infinity. How far can I go? How far will I go?"
-- Winter Season, by Toni Bentley