I don’t, as a standard practice, talk a lot about a project while I’m working on it. I believe at one point it was difficult to shut me up about my latest WIP. Even when Craig Hart and I were writing the SpyCo novellas within the past few years I was prattling on and on about it in some form or another. Oh, sure, I was clever and cute and wrote a lot of blog posts with interesting and humorous tidbits about locations we might visit in the book, or people we might encounter – all intended to whip the readers into a wild froth in anticipation of our next installment.
[Let me just pause here to note note that I went to look for some sort of cartoony representation of that mental image. I would sum up my advice to you, should you decide to replicate my research, in one word: DON’T.]
It seemed to work. Folks bought the books and some even said nice things about them. It was a warm fuzzy sort of situation.
But I think it distracted me. We wrote some really fun books, but I’m comfortable that Craig would agree they didn’t really didn’t represent what either of us was capable of.
I think that, now, he and I are moving in a direction that is more indicative of that.
And I’m learning about myself as a writer everyday. I hope I will continue to do that until I stop writing, which of course will be either the day I die or perhaps on that final lucid day…
So, because I continue to learn, because I am finding freedom in flexibility, I am now going to break one of my standard practices, and talk about a story I’m writing.
I wanted to write a fictionalized account of something that happened to me not long before I left home for college. I’d been thinking about it for quite some time and had actually written a poem about it. It’s pretty good poem, and I’d share a link to it with you if it wasn’t a complete spoiler of my intended shorty. I just took a moment to go reread it, and I feel now as I did for quite some time after I wrote it, (which was about eight months ago). I feel that it is almost good enough an expression of the event that the story wasn’t necessary.
But only almost.
And so I started the story. And immediately I knew that I had to start it over at a point much earlier. And when I did that something amazing happened.
What I had intended to be a dramatic retelling of an actual event became instead the documentation of a moment of stark epiphany. It became an examination of a descent, from the long plateau that is that brief instant of neutral-gear ignorant bliss called childhood, tumbling all too soon into, sadly, what turned out to be a ravine, the bottom of which took years to find, and even longer to claw back out of.
And if you don’t think that caught me off guard, well, you’d be mistaken.
So I wrote that moment down, as well as the many moments that had led up to it, and the first few that followed. And then I stopped.
I don’t remember exactly what I thought when I’d finished it. Probably, “Whoa,” or something equally profound. Also probably, “Well, that was unexpected!” (Oh, yes! I’m just as clever and cute when talking to myself as when you and I chat!)
I know for sure that at one point I thought, “Well, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I can write the story I’d planned.”
So I started writing. And immediately I realized that I was now writing, essentially, a bridge. As if I was some visionary engineer, spanning a vast, frightening gap.
It was ridiculous.
Eventually, I finished it. Eventually, every madcap adventure comes to its terminus. I found myself unsure of how to proceed. Or even if I wanted to proceed.
Without any intention of doing so I had written essentially every minute of a life – literally from conception. From that moment to just before the final climactic event, the story I’d intended to write from the outset.
And now I had reached the point where the only thing I could do, if I chose to move forward, was to write the freaking story.
So I did.
And as we sit together tonight, all at least six feet apart, some of us wearing masks, I can tell you with absolute candor, that it is the weakest of the three sections of what I now recognize is not three stories at all, but one pain-in-the-ass, much-longer-than-it-has-a-right-to-be story which, if read with open eyes, provides a Rosetta Stone for just about every word I’ve ever written.
Or maybe not. Maybe it’s self-indulgent garbage that will actually best serve not only myself, but the literary world at large – by never seeing the light of day.
I have this great phrase. I probably write it in my journal three or four times a week, sometimes in a day. I don’t know for sure which of the great philosophers teachings etched it into my DNA, Spinoza maybe? or Bozo the Clown? Doesn’t matter.
The phrase matters. Here it is:
I’m serious. I write it constantly.
If your mind has an analytical bent perhaps you can reason through the frequency to which I’m confessing that I write this and extrapolate a solution to this question: Why would someone write that phrase often? If I were a monger of internet punk-challenge click-bait, I might, at this point, write a header that says something along the lines of:
Only 3% of Ph.D. candidates will get this right!
But I’m not tryin’ to do all that.
Instead I will give you the answer, much in the way my college psychology professor, a brilliant man from Italy who met a very tragic end, once said he would do to prepare us for an upcoming quiz because he was “the great spoon-feeder.”
I say that so damn often because I’m always speculating about something. Whether it’s a potential plot development or character trait, or the reception our latest will receive when it debuts in just a few days. Sometimes I ponder the course my life will take as a result of the things Craig and I are currently working on.
But whatever the current musing focuses upon, the last two words of the journal entry are, without fail, “We’ll see.”
I tumbled down that rabbit hole to make the point that I’m saying it again, right now, about the story. “We’ll see.” Because for all I know this could be another episode of a madman trying to convince his reflection that the voices have been telling the truth all along.
Should the story, and all the dancing “we’ll see’s,” amount to anything at all, I’ll let you know.
2 thoughts on “When a Story Demands to Be Written”
I do ‘we’ll see’ a lot in my journal too! As well as a healthy deluge of ‘anyway’, ‘so’, and ‘I woke up this morning feeling _____’.
It was interesting reading a fellow writer and journaller’s thoughts on what goes on in their minds while writing. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you for checking in!