Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Write the Story you Want to Read

"Filled with restlessness and longing, he began to read." The History of Love by Nicole Krauss (page 74).

We've all heard it before: write the book you want to read. We give mental assent to this phrase: Yes, yes. What I want to read. Only that.

And yet.

We sit down to write and the screaming memes drown out the book we mean to write. The voices of people who would judge the work before it sees light of day (we ascribe this, usually without knowing if it is true or not). The voice of mom, or our Sunday School teacher, or whoever. If only we could be left alone with our thoughts.

Dig around for some cup of courage that allows us to write through the din of voices. We tell ourselves no one will read the darn thing anyway, save some glassy-eyed agent's assistant. Who will know if we pour our misunderstandings onto the page?
Banish the memes and what is left? The basket is lighter. Honest prose. True story.

And yet.

There is the doubt that we are not up to the task. A story grand as one we want to read certainly requires a steady hand. And look. Our hands tremor. Our word reach is puny. We must look up the word rigour in the dictionary because we most certainly are using it incorrectly.

Sign up for NaNoWriMo and learn to let the words fly, land where they may. We sprout wings and realize trusting ourselves isn't the point. That writers are, primarily, untrustworthy folk. There's joy in that.
Memes exiled, the issue of self trust resolved, we solider on with the scraps of truth left to us. The basket is nearly empty. True story.

And yet.

There is the story. The tapestry in our minds has turned to a single clanging gong on the page. Stiff, shrill, obvious. We have misplaced our campfire enthusiasm, shelved our wide-eyed curiosity in favour of experience. By accident we bought into the social media gimmick that word count and to-do lists, and deadlines mean we have arrived (where, exactly?).
It turns out we must rid ourselves of ourselves. Dissolve ego in the acid of honest prose, good story. The basket is empty.

And yet.

We are left with exactly all we had in the beginning. Nothing more than our restlessness and longing.


Latayne C Scott said...

You nailed so many things I've been feeling.

Excellent writing, Bonnie. And what a precision of expression -- please tell me that took agonizing hours to write. But knowing your skill, probably not. . .

Bonnie Grove said...

Thank you, sweet friend. Good to know we sit "cheek to cheek" on so many things. I love your honest prose and true story.

Henrietta Frankensee said...

I am writing...have been writing just for me.
And yet....
I keep changing! The story that satisfied me yesterday needs another teaspoon of this or that.
And yet...
As I change the characters change. The scene turns out just slightly differently because what she thought yesterday is nuanced by other thoughts today.

Patti Hill said...

Yep. That's exactly it. The memes. Grr. I believe that's why I want a writing house, a place with no address. Maybe they wouldn't be able to find me.

I once read a quote, "Write as if your mother were dead." That sounds gruesome, I know, but the message is the same. Write what you love to read.

Must go dissolve my ego into some honest prose. Thanks, Bonnie.

Bonnie Grove said...

Henrietta: Our writing does change with the passing of time, no doubt about it. I hope you're not allowing that fact to keep you from writing THE END at some point. ;)

Patti: Yes, I like that too: Write as if your mother were dead. It is exactly the same message. Brave as we'd all like to believe ourselves to be, we all fight the memes. We all must learn to push back.

Megan Sayer said...

Yes. Honest prose, true story.
And, if we do as Ariel said the other day and write the story that scares us, then our basket is filled again with the deepest fears of our hearts.
So, I guess, we all write scary stories sometimes.

Bonnie Grove said...

Megan: Writing is an endless cycle of basket emptying.

V. Gingerich said...

I don't even know where to start agreeing with this lovely post. You were talking about me, weren't you. Weren't you? :)

Julie Musil said...

Wow, so beautiful and so accurate.

This makes me thing of "Firefly Lane," by Kristin Hannah—one of my absolute favorite books. She said she wrote a friends novel because she kept looking for a good one and hadn't found one. Her mom told her if you want an amazing friends novel, then write one. I'm so glad she did.