Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Space Between

First a poem:

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart)

by e.e. cummings
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)


Working on a project as long and complexly intertwined as a novel, requires great amounts of space between.

What does that mean?

It means you have to let the story breathe and germinate. It also means you have to step back and forward, dance with it, as it were.

In the beginning, writing it, like any courtship, was a flurry of connecting with it daily, letting it take me, falling in love with it, letting it run away with me.

And then, feeling like I have been unplugged from my source, from the thing that is now calling to me, but needing to step away, look up, chop wood and carry water in my own life.
Ah, the first separation.

I used this period to let the characters grow inside me, to see what they really needed to do.
I took notes. And I took my inclination to stir the novel, instead, to stirring my craft. I have learned gobs of what I never knew before, realizing, I had jumped into this –the novel writing thing– (and this my third journey into such an adventure, full throttle, as it were) without any of the heady confidence that comes from knowing all of –or even most of– the rules.

Dear oh dear. I reminded myself of my daughter, walking out of the house at eighteen. New job in hand, the world before her.
Of course she was ready for it. (sigh)

But those who will dream and just begin a thing are blessed too.

None-the less- I was fascinated with the rules. I learned many and threw many back in the water. I was after my own kind of fish. One of course, who knew how to swim. But didn't swim exactly like the salmon or the trout. Ah yes, the pursut of the mythic fish. Yes, exactly!

Learning the rules, during the space between lets you get perspective on them. Some of them are very good information. Absolutely. Some would be like adding the entire spice cabinet to a delicate souflee. No, don't do it!

So, ok, now mixing metaphors, yes, back to the process. I think it is the process of intuition that calls me to its knee: a process of listening deeply and trusting the characters and the story.

I love what Tim Robbins wrote. That inspired me the most. (See NaNoWriMo peptalks, 2008, first week.)

It took me 6 weeks before I took that first break. And I promise you, if Christmas hadn't been around the corner, I wouldn't have. But not only was it nice to be back in the realm of my loving family, I learned a LOT taking that break.

In January, I had replaced my need for returning to the novel with my need for more industry information. How does that world work? Who is that masked man? Why are all these people guarding the door so diligently? Mysteries to solve. I put on my Sherlock Holmes gear and followed the trail.

Nearing February, I realized I was procrastinating. I had written a nearly 90,000 word novel. But I had written it without stopping to spellcheck and it was a tedious boring slow mission to go back in and do the clean-up. . By mid-Febrauy I finally began to hold my nose each day and go back in until I had spellchecked the entire novel. Six long arduous weeks. Ugh.

Again, afterwards, the novel and I needed, deserved, the space between. Stopping, getting fresh air. I worked on a small children's musical for a month; a work in progress. I wrote a poem a day for the entire month with a writers group for Poetry Month.
I enjoyed writing elsewhere.

And now, entering into the fourth week of what I call Deep Editing, there is another kind of space between that I am taking, allowing. This one is so lovely. It is actually exquisite.

I am working on the novel for 1 to 2 hours each day, at least four days a week.
More than that and I would not be able to see, to hear its melody. I work a section and then I let it rest.

The time and space in between are absolutely necessary to it. The work I have done needs to rest, germinate, be savored, perhaps later worked on, added to, subtracted from again. It's sort of like making a beautiful meal and along the way there are taste tests.
Hmm, a little of this, let it simmer, then cover. Mmmmm. And sometimes it needs just a pinch more of this or, oh dear, too much hot pepper oil in the side dish, and rather than work with it, I toss it into the garbage and pull out fresh mushrooms and start that dish again.

So, in my process, the space between daily, is essential. And the space I give it on the weekend is also essential. That's where the story deepens and settles into itself and into me.

It's not like I actually left it.
I carry it with me in my heart.


1 comment:

The Ink Gypsy said...

I like this sentiment and I know what you mean. I have a few 'poetic potions' on the burble that require me to at least mentally check on them every other day so they grow richer rather than fade to pale imitations of what they could be. I think of my heart as having a little story papoose in which I carry my treasured tales with me wherever I go.