Gearing Up

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.

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One thought on “Gearing Up

  1. Your words shine a bright light on the work I’ve been doing. Oh yeah, imagination! Not that I forgot about it, but I’ve buried it under so many life-draining revisions that the poor thing can barely breathe. Time to let go. In a week, I’ll be starting my first Nanowrimo. Sounds like you’ll be getting back to work too. Here’s to the crazy, dream-filled days ahead…

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