Been gearing up to write. That’s all I know. I’ve been not writing and now that my house renovations are almost done, the words must come back. Last week, I taught a Robert Olen Butler story entitled “Jealous Husband Returns in Form of Parrot” and have been fascinated with Butler ever since. I’m reading his book From Where You Dream. It is basically a series of transcribed lectures he gave to a writing class, I don’t remember at which school. It is fascinating how he describes the writing moment. He says that if you think about writing in a rational, idea-driven fashion, the work will fall short of any artistic goals. Art, he says, is not born of ideas. I’ve been telling my students a version of this for a long time. I tell them not to think when they write, as counter-intuitive as that may feel. I tell them that writing is much more like dreaming than thinking, that the “self” that pays bills and buys food and mows the lawn and prepares taxes is not the same self that can dip into E.M. Forster’s creative state–a place from which a writer will uncover things normally beyond his reach. I’ve fallen into the trap of thinking I had ideas for stories. Especially when I was just beginning–I was always having ideas. Now, I’ve been writing consistently for thirteen years (I really only started writing at thirty) I rarely have ideas. All my early stories were ideas before art. My first novel (horrible, horrible book) was full of ideas and despite occasional bursts of good language, was a failure. My second novel broke the pattern a bit. I wrote two hundred pages on an idea. Then, when I got to page two hundred, I realized that I was going about it all wrong. I cut everything and started over, with no idea where I was going. I still believe in that book. I think I reached a core of honest yearning for my characters. I no longer mourn the fact that it never found a home. I am happy that I wrote it and that it is painful and joyful and concise in its uncovering of grief. My newest manuscript (anyone who has read this blog as seen my writing concerning the work) had no idea at all. It started with water. That was all. I feel that the work was as pure a piece of imagination as I could create. I did not think my way through the book. There are large parts of the book that I barely remember writing. It came in a trance, I suppose, a creative state in which my artistic self surprised my rational, everyday self. I have no clue if anyone will ever publish the book. That’s okay too. I’d love to see it in the world, but if it stays with me, my art, my private adventure, I am satisfied with the outcome. I’m gearing up to write. I do not have an idea. I have an image. That is all. My goal is to figure a way to write toward that image. Nothing more.
Keeping a blog is harder than I ever expected. My life off the screen has been hectic. We’ve been renovating the last two rooms of our old farmhouse in preparation for my father-in-law to join us. The rooms were once the ugliest rooms in our house. And considering the state of the house when we bought it, that’s saying something. Now, the rooms are two of the most beautiful. With the rooms nearly done, I hope to bring myself back to speed in this small descriptive account of my writing life. I suspect we will still be inordinately busy, but I hope to devote my newly freed up “building/renovating” time to my writing life. I haven’t written anything since I finished the manuscript of The Improbable Colony at the end of May. I’ve been sending the book on the rounds with agents that I think might be a good fit, but have had no success interesting anyone as of yet. Still, the best medicine for the apathetic response to one’s writing is to simply get back to doing more writing. So this is an attempt to kickstart that process. Anyone else trying to sell a book with little success?