I woke up this morning with the answer to a question that I had been pondering upon since last month: Should I begin writing a first draft again? I had previously attempted to write a manuscript, but had to give it up when life interrupted. I considered lack of time as the issue because my therapy work is on the upswing and most days I am simply too tired to do any more writing after work. Giving up therapy work is out of the question – I know that it is my right livelihood and it is as important to me as writing is.
The words to this blog post came flooding through my mind the minute I woke up. Nevertheless, I sat down and began my early morning writing. I stopped this practice for three days. I always stop writing when I am not clear about my writing life. Abstaining has its merits, and early morning writing today was an eye-opener – I found myself writing from a fresh perspective.
Books are my best writing buddies and mentors. I selected one writing book to keep me company through this period of indecision: Courage & Craft, Writing Your Life Into Story by Barbara Abercrombie.
“Writing is about discovering who you really are, where you’ve been, and where you’re headed,” Abercrombie wrote in the introduction. She continued: “It’s about tuning the messy, crazy, wonderful, and sad stuff in your life into something that has order and clarity and meaning – a place of writing that other people can connect to and be moved by.”
Why did I choose this book to read at a time when I am mulling over the question, “To author or not to author?” Mainly because when I went through the list of things I know or can claim I know more of, I realized that what I know about these things is not enough. My life is the only thing I know so much about, and no one else can lay claim to that. I also have tons of materials on my life: 29 journals, a wad of loose pages with my scribblings, a few art journals, and many entries in several personal blogs.
This morning, this blog post wrote itself in my mind, and the last few words were, “I have already been writing the book about my life for a long time.” I am free-writing my way through, gathering materials. The time for collating, distilling and re-writing will come, but for now, I write.
How Some Books Came to Be
I admire people who don’t need inspiration to write. I am probably a romantic – for want of a better word – when it comes to writing. I look to the experiences of other writers, and try to learn as much as I can from them.
Books are among my best sources of inspiration and guidance. In her book, One Year to a Writing Life: Twelve Lessons to Deepen Every Writer’s Art and Craft, Susan M. Tiberghien discussed how some writers developed their ideas for the books they wanted to write.
In these different shapes and suits, the essay is the primary short unit of longer nonfiction works. When Natalie Goldberg wrote Writing Down the Bones, she wrote each chapter as a self contained essay. When Alice Walker wrote her nonfiction book Anything We Love Can Be Saved, many of the chapters had first appeared as individual essays. And Kathleen Norris wrote most of the text of Dakota in the essay form, adding journal entries, poems, and weather reports. The same observation holds true for Stephen King in his book On Writing. It is written in fragments. King calls them snapshots, occasional memories “against a fogged-out landscape.”
After reading this, I realized that what I have now is a treasure trove – lots of journal entries, blog posts, essays stashed here and there, poems and scribblings – just waiting to be sorted out.
And then there are dreams. Yes, I do have a dream journal as well, and it, too, provides a rich resource. After all, Stephenie Meyer’s book Twilight, was inspired by a single dream.
I know the exact date that I began writing Twilight, because it was also the first day of swim lessons for my kids. So I can say with certainty that it all started on June 2, 2003. Up to this point, I had not written anything besides a few chapters (of other stories) that I never got very far on, and nothing at all since the birth of my first son, six years earlier.
I woke up (on that June 2nd) from a very vivid dream. In my dream, two people were having an intense conversation in a meadow in the woods. One of these people was just your average girl. The other person was fantastically beautiful, sparkly, and a vampire. They were discussing the difficulties inherent in the facts that A) they were falling in love with each other while B) the vampire was particularly attracted to the scent of her blood, and was having a difficult time restraining himself from killing her immediately. For what is essentially a transcript of my dream, please see Chapter 13 (“Confessions”) of the book.
Though I had a million things to do (i.e. making breakfast for hungry children, dressing and changing the diapers of said children, finding the swimsuits that no one ever puts away in the right place, etc.), I stayed in bed, thinking about the dream. I was so intrigued by the nameless couple’s story that I hated the idea of forgetting it; it was the kind of dream that makes you want to call your friend and bore her with a detailed description. (Also, the vampire was just so darned good-looking, that I didn’t want to lose the mental image.) Unwillingly, I eventually got up and did the immediate necessities, and then put everything that I possibly could on the back burner and sat down at the computer to write—something I hadn’t done in so long that I wondered why I was bothering. But I didn’t want to lose the dream, so I typed out as much as I could remember, calling the characters “he” and “she.”
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