She listened to the steady pounding of her feet along the roads. And after a while, she could feel it running in her veins, something that turned backward to rituals of spring–Lent, events of her childhood, like painting rain-washed colors on hard boiled eggs. The sky would scuttle from grey to blue to grey, rain spitting just as intermittently. But the air was becoming velvet, enveloping, warming the skin and when she walked now crunching spring detritus, a hollowness opened up inside her, a sweet opening as if she were ready, also, to suffer, to feel pain, to live and embrace. (from The MOON DOCTOR)
Writing about SPRING
I wrote those words years ago. They are part of a novel that sits in a manuscript box under my desk. I love those words and many springs I come back to them. But words of published writers also speak SPRING to me: “It was such a spring day as breathes into a man an ineffable yearning, a painful sweetness, a longing that makes him stand motionless, looking at the leaves or grass, and fling out his arms to embrace he knows not what.” John Galsworthy, The Forsyte Saga There is simply something about the season that pulls words from the mind to the page.
Writing and Nostalgia
In a recent piece by author Jonathan Lee, he writes about the disquiet that occurs when a book is written AND published. Finally, it is out of your hands. You can’t mess with it anymore and yet something pulls at you about this fact. WHY? Anxious, Lee went to the library: looking for a book with a title like How To Get Through The Period Between Finishing A Book and Seeing It In A Bookstore Without Losing Your Entire Grip on Reality. But Lee failed to find it. He did find The Book of Disquiet, a collection of opinions of various writers. He decided it was a very sad book, drenched in nostalgia.
NOSTALGIA. Curious about the roots that formed the word, Lee looked them up and discovered: nostos (return home) and algos (pain). Writers, especially fiction writers, almost always deal in nostalgia. They are constantly attempting to return home, to reassemble in words the pain of life–and yes, the joys. But LIFE always seen through the lens of their own experience. The drug for writers is remembering–remembering who we are and where we come from and what we have experienced.
As Lee so beautifully states: We all know by now that the past is as much a work of imagination as the future. We re-form. We invent. We chase after moments that have already fled. We can never quite recapture the passion within the passion, nor the grief within the grief, but we make a version we can live with, shape, touch with color, and we start to exist within its architecture.
Reshaping Our Reality
All of us do this–not just writers. We shape our memories so that we can live with them. Sometimes to a fault, as we struggle to assign to ourselves a minor role in some conflict when truly we needed to accept more guilt. But that “remembering” allows us to move into the future with our recreated selves.
Writing by Committee
I am currently polishing and working toward a final rendering of my first novel–with the goal of publishing. I have rewritten the first chapter over six times. Writing is plastic, yes, but what affects writers today is the chatter about HOW TO WRITE. If the drug for writers is remembering, the antidote for that drug is all the VOICES on the internet imposing their views on what an agent or a publisher wants. It messes up your memory. It’s tougher than tough.
Writing by Committee occurs when a friend or fellow writer or agent who has rejected your query complains about your VOICE, or says the writing is too CLIPPED, or can’t fall in love with the character after one page. I do listen. Thus the changes. And thus I understand even more why some authors self-publish–they don’t want to write by committee–this is the book they have created, the book they love. But again, after it has escaped from the writer’s hands–the characters might still be walking around in one’s head, maybe changing their actions, altering their words. The only cure is for the writer to immediately immerse herself in another story and “forget those people”–or at least decide you did the best for them that you could possibly do.
Thoughts on The Reader