Centennial Cone Park hike. July 10, 2019.
I hope you will go out and let stories happen to you, and that you will work them, water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom,
till you yourself burst into bloom.
~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes
I’ve mentioned before that I’m usually a one-project-at-a-time kinda writer. It seems my brain and creative juices struggle when I switch focus. BUT. I think it’s a good skill to cultivate, juggling projects, so I bought myself a brand new notebook for a brand new middle-grade novel idea I’d like to noodle on while working on my work-for-hire nonfiction project. If you hear the sound of shrieking gears, that’ll be my brain right before I burst into bloom.
Fiction is such a world of freedom,
If you want someone to fly, they can fly.
~ Alice Walker
Today, as I work on revisions and battle feelings of overwhelm and oh-my-goddess-will-I-ever-be-finished-with-this-effing-story, I’m trying to keep in mind that perfection is the enemy of done. My revisions will never, ever be perfect. This manuscript will never, ever be perfect no matter how many times I revise. Yes, the bloom on this Christmas Cactus is pretty much perfect, but that kind of creation is out of my reach.
What is within my creative control is forging ahead. Ignoring the voices in my head telling me that my efforts are pointless because they’ll never be exactly right.
At this point, the healthiest attitude is to let go of exactly right and aim for exactly done.
Art is a lie that makes us realize truth.
~ Pablo Picasso
Portrait de Dora Maar, 1937 Print hanging in my writing room.
I guess that’s basically what I strive for with my fiction: to write lies in such a way the reader realizes some truths.
I loathe liars, but this kind of lying is a pretty good gig.
Where did the day go? Last thing I knew, I was sitting down to figure out some stuff about the fictional community I’m creating. I did learn lots about pea viners and farming trends, and my revision notes are more fleshed out. I definitely made progress.
Still. Where did the day go?
“If a bunch of words are cut from a novel and no one is around to read them,
did they ever exist?”
Today I’m feeling a bit like this as I revise:
There are visibility issues, doubts and uncertainties, and a nagging worry that the whole endeavor is about to go into a skid. Nonetheless, I’m enjoying the ride and can’t wait to see the end result when the dust settles.
I know I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed by all the horrifying happenings in the world right now. In an act of self-preservation, I’ve spent today in a fictional world that exists in my head. I’m revising my middle-grade novel, spending time with some funny girls and “bad” guys who, in the big scheme of things, aren’t really all that bad. I know that I need to return to reality tomorrow and behave as a contributing member of society, but right now I’m hunkered down in a happier place.
I’m writing the final scenes of my middle-grade novel.
I know where the story goes and how it ends.
However, that doesn’t make the process any less exhausting.
I’ve got lots of characters coming together,
and they’re all toting individual motivations and plot lines.
Choreographing these scenes feels a bit like juggling chainsaws and kittens.
The good news is that it’s only a first draft.
I need to remember that these scenes do not need to be perfect.
All fiction relies on the real world
in the sense that we all take in the world through our five senses
and we accumulate details, consciously or subconsciously.
This accumulation of detail can be drawn on when you write fiction.
~ Rohinton Mistry
I photographed these carved figures with my phone while visiting the Vasa Museum in Stockholm, and have held onto the bizarre image for months as I waited for the right time to display it here.
Today feels like an especially good day in the Corporate States of America to share these figures from the Vasa’s prow.
I’ll let Wikipedia explain:
[The Vasa] was constructed at the navy yard in Stockholm under a contract with private entrepreneurs in 1626–1627 and armed primarily with bronze cannons cast in Stockholm specifically for the ship. Richly decorated as a symbol of the king’s ambitions for Sweden and himself, upon completion she was one of the most powerfully armed vessels in the world. However, Vasa was dangerously unstable and top-heavy with too much weight in the upper structure of the hull. Despite this lack of stability she was ordered to sea and foundered only a few minutes after encountering a wind stronger than a breeze.
Greed and arrogance.
The Vasa sank after traveling just 1300 meters.
Today I’m indulging in a little wishful thinking.
(NOTE: As a writer, I’m also thinking about how there’s truly no such thing as an original plot line. Greedheads gonna be greedheads, from the beginning of time…)
Fiction is too beautiful to be about just one thing. It should be about everything.
~ Arundhati Roy
I absolutely agree with Ms. Roy. Fiction should include the smooth, the rough, the soft, the sharp, the bright, the dull, the everything. Right now, however, I’m struggling with a bit of overwhelm in regards to the EVERYTHING I’m contemplating for this current project.
The good news is that I’ve (temporarily, at least) eluded my panic, and am whittling away at one piece of EVERYTHING that I hope belongs in the story. If it turns out this piece doesn’t belong, I will still have learned something.
Disclosure: That mature sentiment will fade if this project turns into one long-ass process of elimination.
I just turned in the second of two nonfiction projects due this month.
Oh, happy day!
Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy nonfiction.
I love the research and
the learning and
the challenge of distilling all that information for young readers.
But right now I’m happy happy happy
knowing that I’m (temporarily, at least) going back
where it is not necessary to footnote every single sentence.
Fiction: where it’s all about making up shit.
Be still, my heart.
I’ve spent the past couple days researching nonfiction project ideas and it’s been a joy because the planet’s animal inhabitants are incredibly diverse and mind-blowingly freaky in their behaviors. I could read forever.
But I can’t read forever because I need to make a decision. I need to choose a topic and start writing. The problem is I want to write about all the things that fascinate and entertain and expand my world view. All. The. Things.
I’ve started three different Scrivener files, adding research sources and roughing out drafts. And then my brain says “But there’s also that other cool thing. Maybe it would be best to write about that right now.”
I’ve never had this problem with fiction. I decide what story to work on and away I go. Over the years I have revisited fiction projects, which to the casual observer might look like indecisive bouncing around, but I’ve never experienced anything like this. Which is kind of strange considering that the planet’s human inhabitants are also incredibly diverse and mind-blowingly freaky in their behaviors. I mean, there’s a lot to choose from there, too.
I’d love to be assigned a topic, but that’s not happening right now. So I’m going to make a decision because, like this guy says:
You heard it here first.