I decided a month ago that part of my spring break would be given over to working on my fiction writing. Today was the start, and I revisited and added to a story I began nearly a year ago. The story is based on a picture I took of two girls at the beach who were very excited about finding a horseshoe crab. The story is being told in an episodic way — a form I learned about ten years ago in my first National Writing Project Summer Institute, but have still not attempted.
Meanwhile, in the back of my mind I know I still need to follow through on my post a day here. I pulled my favorite book on writing off the shelf: Natalie Goldberg’s Wild Mind. I found this in a chapter called “Fresh Writing”:
Writing is the act of discovery. If I knew everything ahead of time, why bother writing?
She goes on to explain how she uses her fresh writing approach to draft and to revise. She, like me, likes to do all initial writing by hand. The best voice is found there.
This got me thinking about fiction writing, and why I feel like I have to set aside special time for it.
My story has been brewing in my brain for a long time. I somehow never completed it last summer, and then once school started, it was nearly forgotten. There is a constant struggle between the energy it takes to teach and the energy it takes to write. For so long, I felt the two were simply not compatible. Little by little, I have made it a bit more interspersed — at least with nonfiction writing and poetry. Fiction always seems different, somehow.
Now I have to time, and I don’t want to squander it. Yet, I was starting to feel like this was a chore. Natalie’s words are helpful to me in this moment. I need to just set aside the time to write write write. What the story is to be will emerge from that act — not me mulling over it and forcing it to conform to some kind of image I have of the story. In a way, she has freed me from my own inner tyranny about finally having some time dedicated. It still has to have that freshness to it — or what is the point?
And there is more here to learn. Near the end of this two page chapter, she says:
All good writing comes from the body and its physical experience.
I’m reading this in a new way today. I usually just think it means physically writing. But I think I need to expand that. I need to do yoga. Go for a walk. Play my mandolin — run that G scale until it is as smooth as silk and my fingers quit cramping. Dance around my room to music I’ve recently downloaded. I am in a fortunate place of gorgeous weather and time. I not only need fresh writing, I need fresh everything. Hey, I’m not in a classroom every day. Time to take advantage of that!
As part of my creative “get out of the box” exploration this week, I will indulge in more physical activity and see where it takes my writing. This suddenly feels very exciting — not the near trudge it was beginning to feel like today.
To close, here is one of my favorite parts from this book — this from the chapter called “Merging” where she explains how necessary it is to transition from writing to other parts of our lives. These words hold a reminder and a relief and a promise which has put a fresh twist on my week to come:
We are not our writing. Our writing is a moment moving through us.
I’m merging on to the next thing now — and I am going to love it!