Sunday, July 06, 2008

It always starts with a sentence...

I haven't seriously worked on fiction in a long time. I've had good excuses - busy with the day job, the writing of the personal nonfiction, writing a nonfiction book - but I've ached to get back to it. The most I've been able to accomplish is taking old stories that never went anywhere and re-working them from time to time.

I went to bed last night around 2am, expecting to have the kind of lazy Sunday morning that I love - getting up briefly to make coffee and grab the Sunday New York Times from the porch while still in my pajamas, back into bed with coffee and paper, watching Sunday Morning on CBS and reading the NYT Magazine during commercials, maybe even dozing off until noon.

Instead, I was wide awake before 7am with sentences running through my head. They weren't mine - they belonged to a character I haven't heard from in a long time. And because I learned a long time ago if I didn't get them down on paper or in a Word document right then and there, they would be lost forever. I won't lie; I did consider rolling back over and going back to sleep. But she wouldn't let me and I had a feeling if I didn't get up and get it down she wouldn't come back, maybe ever.

So I've been writing this morning for hours. I think I've hit around 6,000 words (granted, no editing at all - just the writing and writing). Mixed in with some of the other phrases that were running through my head was something about this character disappearing. I thought it was a veiled threat from this particular muse that she wouldn't return unless I put fingers to keyboard. But later I realized that it was the character - the woman becoming invisible, the one who was afraid of disappearing.

This is the paragraph in the first few that turned the light on for me:

She felt like she was suspended — not just in time, because that had already slowed so gradually she was scarcely aware of the absence of forward movement — but weightless and insignificant. She floated just out of the perception of anyone who may have been paying attention. She disappeared, faded in and out. She was more than invisible. She was vague; she was vapor. Just being empty could have done it, she thinks wryly, no explanation needed. But explanations are needed.

I'm going to finish this one. Maybe today (maybe not because my hands are cramping now and I think I need a nap), maybe later this week. But I will finish it. Because inspiration might be like lightning - random and fleeting and never in the same place twice. And because explanations are needed.

(photo by Mallory Morrison)


  1. What a way to wake up! I always get my creative inspiration when I least expect it. But I still haven't tried a book. Good luck, it sounds like your character is ready to come to life.

  2. Wow, 6,000 words! Puts my measly 2300 to shame. I love it when I'm in the zone like that, though.

    I am really liking the little bit you posted here. I hope I get to read more...

  3. It's the weirdest thing how and when stories come together.

    Back when I used to ride a motorcycle, I'd have whole short stories float together in my head.

    I think the fact that I couldn't immediately write them down on paper (because, hello) had a lot to do with that.

  4. It was actually a great way to wake up (I can say that now because I did take a nap). And 6,000 words of a short story seems like a lot, but I don't edit when I write so it will probably end up at 3,000-3,500 (and that's the work of it that isn't my favorite part).

    And I have gotten out of a shower with shampoo in my hair to write down ideas that I know I'd lose otherwise. I have one particular notebook that is severely water-damaged. And your comment was funny because I've considered buying a motorcycle in the past couple of years and now thinking I might have to do a lot of pulling over to the side of the road.

  5. isn't the creative process so beautiful? thank you for sharing yours here, so that we can continue to support and wish you well along the journey.

    You say your hands hurt -- is this from typing or (gasp) writing pen to paper??

  6. Wrap your wrists and keep going!

  7. KTS: It is wonderful and I'm glad I have the time to be open to it now. It started pen to paper but I couldn't get it out fast enough so I switched to typing after just a few pages. I can write a lot more on the keyboard than I can handwriting these days!

    Jenny: One night's rest of the wrists and I was ready to go the next morning!

    What I love about having a blog: Instant cheerleaders! Thanks to all for your encouragement.

  8. LOVE that graph. Hope you'll share more!

  9. Ooh! A wordgasm! Love those, but haven't had one in awhile.

    Your story sounds very flannery o'connor!


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