October 08, 2010

Unexpected Flow

I’ve been surprised lately at how well my writing is flowing. The blog goes on as it generally does, but some larger projects have been making more progress these past few weeks than is typical. In terms of words on paper, the number remains few, but in terms of sorting out critical pivot points in the plot, laying out scenes, and understanding narrative, things have been coming together in my mind.

Earlier this week I wrote a piece about my Grandfather. That essay will now serve as the cornerstone of the ongoing project of Dharma Cowgirl, a memoir I have been struggling with for a few years now. Around that piece I can organize several earlier pieces of writing that get to the heart of what I want to say in the project. I am going to spend some extra time on it this semester as part of the “spiritual autobiography” we have been assigned as a final project in our Spiritual Formation class. I’ve been struggling with how to start this project for almost as long as I’ve had the blog. I’ve even published many drafts here, only to ultimately discard them, but now I have something which I finally feel some kind of lasting satisfaction with.

The other project which has been in the forefront of my mind lately is an as of yet unnamed series of science fiction novels. I’ve had the critical final scene in mind for years and it wasn’t until three weeks ago that I figured out why, not how, but more importantly why the characters need to go from here to there. Last night I had a major breakthrough in understanding and laying out the scene that will articulate the main character’s motivation. This is critical, heady stuff, which allows me to actually sit down and write the body of the work with some kind of integrity.

Of course, I still don’t have all that much time to write. I’m reading a lot for class. One thing I’m not doing is creating. I’m not designing. I don’t have any projects. Sayonara, studio! In moments of discursiveness my mind tends to rearrange my mental surroundings, shuffling furniture, moving walls, reorganizing function, layout, and landscaping. But I get the impression that’s just habit, the way an ex-smoker chews gum or gnaws on pencils.

What really seems to absorb my mind in moments between appointments is my writing, and mostly these two projects. I want to be writing and I have a hard time avoiding it when in proximity to a computer. I’ve taken to doing my reading assignments in the living room, away from my keyboard. I’ve even started jotting down hand written notes when ideas come to me while I’m waiting for class to start, or during breaks, or, Buddha forbid, in class itself.

I have daydreams of actually being able to finish one or the other of these projects. I tell myself I’m at a point in my life where I could take the time. I don’t need to get a job. For once I’m getting by on being a student, if only just barely. I could invest the time in myself. I could actually take a bet on myself.

But what a bet it would be! Even if a book is written, it’s hard to get published! It involves editors and agents and someone else has to be willing to take a bet that the book will sell. And in the end, let’s face it, I’m not a trained writer. I didn’t study English or literature or journalism. No, I studied architecture. Now I study Buddhism. I have no objectivity by which to judge the market value of my work. I’ve never received a professional opinion on either of these projects.

For now, I’ll keep going with the flow, but as a hobby. I enjoy writing. I’ll keep chipping away at these projects, but slowly, steadily, the way one eats an elephant (if one isn’t vegetarian). I love the story I’m weaving in the one projects and the things I’m discovering about myself through the other (even the ugly things). Someone once said "It is better to write for yourself and have no public, than write for the public and have no self." (Assuming one does not quibble with the quote on Buddhist grounds.) I think I'll keep doing that and let my rearranged creative energies sort themselves out as they wish.

Without the shade of skyscrapers, trees can grow.

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