When the creative process meets you halfway--god, I love that. Funny how it only shows up when you do, though. I've been showing up this week, showing up and writing in circles, stilted bits of attempted character exploration and horrid stalled non-scenes, and yesterday I finally stumbled into some forward-moving plot. Stumbled is disingenuous--I think, often, especially at the beginning, this circling is necessary, the exploration and discovery that feels blind in the moment but can, does, at last explode you into a clearing where you can see that actually you were going somewhere all along.
I love that moment, when you find out you're actually going somewhere.
I used a grant deadline earlier in the month to spur me into 4,000 solid, polished words on the opening of my new novel. All that blind exploration had to be turned into something readable. I doubted the wisdom, at first, of forcing myself to get analytical at this early stage, to trade my creating hat for my editing hat, but in the end it was really helpful to show myself that what I've been working on in my rambling notebook is indeed a novel. I sent those 4,000 words to my trusted first reader, and I read her response over and over with a dreamy smile. She used the words engaging, gripping, and marvelous. She is the person I write to, the only person I could, my ideal reader who is the only person I allow myself to think about as I write, if I think about anyone at all. I'm writing these pages just for her, she's waiting for the next installment, and I'm going along crafting it solely for her enjoyment.
(And then I went and sent it to a grant jury but, you know, I'm hiding that bit of intelligence from my creating self.)
But now, it is back to discovery draft on the remaining 86,000 or so words in this baby book. I'm showing up every morning, sometimes only for 15 minutes because it's all I've got, and it's been circuitous and dead-endy this last week or so, until yesterday when, bam, I've stumbled out of the brambles into the clearing.
I love that moment. I love when I remember why I'm showing up. When something bigger than myself rises up to meet me. I'm still showing up when it doesn't, but god, when it does, that's golden.
In last month's Creativity Rising workshop we wrote on wallpaper with Sharpies. The point, of course, being to get playful, to get out of our analytical minds, to shake up our accustomed writing habits. I, the facilitator at the front of the room, wrote merrily away for my ten minutes on my big glossy wallpaper sample, left to right, top to bottom, in a straight line.
Then I looked up. Every single other person in the room had covered her wallpaper with beautiful, meandering text that followed the contours of the design on her page. Words went in circles. They were breaking loose. They were not toeing lines. It was brilliant.
It hadn't even occurred to me.
Clearly, my linear being still needs a bit more shaking up.
Kerry Clare, editor of The M Word: Conversations About Motherhood, has cooked up a fun event to expand the conversation into the children's books some of us spend so much of our time in. Six of us M Word contributors will be discussing the portrayal of mothers in children's literature, and ways in which these portrayals tie in with some of the themes in The M Word.
I'm going to talk about Sarah Garland's Eddie series, specifically Eddie's Kitchen. I like how there are hints of the mother having a life and a self outside her children, even as she is clearly there for them and clearly mired in the daily minutiae. She seems not to have a partner but she clearly has community--neighbours, parents, friends, people she supports and is supported by. She usually looks a little rumpled and ever so slightly overwhelmed, but she's doing it--raising her children, engaging with them, while also doing other things that have nothing to do with them. And I really hope she's getting it on with the handy new single-dad neighbour in Eddie's Toolbox.