In its way, everything we write reveals us. Not because we’re naming names, but because who we are—what we think, believe, and have experienced—comes through in what we choose to create.
Here’s an example. The novella I plan to publish later this year arose out of the juxtaposition of two very different elements. One element was my beloved Bonanza; in fact, the original version of the novella was created as fan fiction. The other element was my long-ago experience directing a high school drama club, where the kids were talented and enthusiastic and I was utterly clueless. Put the pieces together, revise the living daylights out of them, and voilà! It’s a lighthearted tale about siblings and community theater: My Brother, Romeo, slated for publication this fall.
Benjamin Franklin famously wrote, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” While he was not writing under circumstances even remotely resembling the events I am about to relate, I almost feel as if I understand a little better today the sentiment he expressed more than 265 years ago.
Last night, I was completely ready to be done with this #1000wordsofsummer challenge. This evening, as I watched the news and late-night television for the first time in ages, I wasn’t even thinking of writing.
My original plan for this final day of the #1,000WordsofSummer challenge was to write another 1,000 words in my novel, but that’s not what I’m doing.
Instead, my final 1,000 words will be directed to you, the wonderful folks who have accompanied me on this journey. (This means that my post will be a bit longer than usual, but I’m trusting you to handle it.)
The end of the #1000wordsofsummer challenge is near, and I’m starting to look ahead.
I need to devote serious thought to the structure of the book. Even before the challenge, I was writing discrete scenes here and there in an effort to figure out what the story is–how these people will move ahead, how they will grow and change, what will happen to them and how they will adjust. As a result, I’ve amassed thousands of words with no particular connections. It’s like creating a group of islands with no bridges. Sooner or later, I need to figure out how to get from one place to another.
It helped that I didn’t wait until the wee hours to write, because I’m still exhausted. It’s been a big day in a few ways. I didn’t do a lot of the things on my list, but I did some that came up unexpectedly, plus a few (like mowing the lawn) that I just didn’t want hanging over my head all weekend.
In the law, we often criticize the opposing party’s position by arguing that they’re elevating form over substance. In other words, they’re too concerned about how something is to be done, rather than focusing on the purpose of what’s to be accomplished.
The author of Ecclesiastes tells us in chapter 3 that there’s a time for every activity under heaven. He even gives us a list of activities, and that list was made into a song back in the 1960s. (He doesn’t say “turn, turn, turn,” but maybe it’s implied.) Unfortunately, his list doesn’t say anything about a time to cease activity—in other words, a time to turn off the computer and (in the words of a very different author) go the f**k to sleep.
I’m not saying this is why I finished revising a motion to quash last night at 1:15 a.m. and then pushed myself to write my 1,000 words. It’s because I know myself well enough to know that if I skipped this one day, that would be the end of the challenge.
Scraps of time may be all you have to get the writing done.
I went to bed late last night. Three o’clock, to be precise. It was the best I could do after finishing all that needed to be filed, making a meat loaf, wrapping a friend’s birthday gifts, doing the billing so clients would send me money, and cleaning up the kitchen. I knew I’d have to be awake at 9:00 a.m. so I could buy a ticket to see Yo-Yo Ma at the Connecticut Forum, but apart from that brief moment of wakefulness, I figured I could sleep until at least 10:00; I already had plans to take Dad for a medical appointment, but I wouldn’t have to leave the house until 11:00.
Except just before 7:00 this morning, my sister texted to say that Dad fell, the ambulance was at the house, and he might need to go to the ER.
Tonight, I started with my main character walking in the woods. It’s actually a patch of woods I know, because it’s right in my town. Next thing I knew, she was remembering my memories, albeit tweaked to fit her. She recalled walking along the beach down on the shoreline, dinner in those eighties-style restaurants with lots of blond wood and ferns, and a bar my friends and I frequented in Westport where we drank white sangria and ate boursin and cheese. (I did say it was Westport.)