28 January 2009

Reading for life

As I start to rewrite my novel, I've been thinking a lot about the reading I've done over the years, why I've done it, and what I've gotten from it. Honestly, I've been trying to motivate myself to start over. I mention it on the other blog in the link above, but starting over is hard...it's hard to remember that the work I've done so far still means something, even though I've found a better way to say it all.

But back to reading. I always figured that I read to escape, to give my mind something to do, to create worlds and friends in my head when I didn't like the world around me and didn't feel like I had any friends. But I've been reading The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner. She talks about how most writers read, and many started reading because the world didn't satisfy, because they wanted to understand things that weren't explained to them and wanted to know how people functioned and how life worked beyond their experience.

That's totally me!

I mean, I read for all those other reasons, too. But reading has given me so much more than escape, so much more than people to populate my world when the real relationships didn't work or didn't satisfy. I could make a list of the things that reading has given me, but it would go on forever. I'm more intuitive, more big-picture, more interested in psychology and sociology and spiritual growth, more mature, more understanding, more intelligent, more insightful, more creative, more connected to the middle of who I am because of books. I credit a lot of my emotional maturity to the fact that I read and experienced many characters' growth along with them, even before I'd experienced that particular type of growth for myself. I credit a lot of my good decision making to experiencing poor decision making and its consequences through characters. I credit some of my faith to watching God work in different characters lives and experiencing, with them, the ups and downs of that relationship.**

Powerful things, these books. Powerful enough to make me say that I want to try again, to keep writing in hopes that someday I can touch someone the way my heart has been touched so many times.

**On a side note, I've begun to hope that the characters who have touched my life in these ways and so many others are somehow alive in heaven. Maybe it's a pipe dream, maybe I'm totally off the wall, but maybe not. And how cool would that be for an artist, to know that God not only leg him create something on paper, but that his creation has somehow been given life. Please God? Could the real people and the book-people somehow live together?

23 January 2009

Dearest, Darling Novel

I've been thinking about this post for weeks but haven't put it up yet, at least in part because The Sinus Infection That Doesn't Die seems to have taken up residence in my head and I would swear that it seeps into my brain. Oozes, maybe.

A few...days? weeks?...ago, LL Barkat posted this, where she features a letter to her being-born book. It fed her mind and her writing and allowed her to come back to it with different eyes. Since then, I've written several letters to my first-drafted novel, and this is a conglomeration of all of them. I'd hoped to find, in the writing of these letters, what wasn't working about the book, because my intuition told me something had broken and I didn't know what. I did figure out the problem, and I'd like to think the letters contributed at least a bit.

Dearest Novel,

I love you. I feel like I need to say that straight out, so I don't forget it in the wandering, confused place I feel like we've entered in the last several days. Because it is confusing to know that I love you and also that something isn't working. I feel like I've almost abandoned you, like the temptation is to leave behind what doesn't work and find something that does. But the truth is, no matter where I go from here, something will always be unfinished if I let you languish in this state. I'll look at you out of the corner of my eye, pretending not to see but really seeing nothing else, and I'll always wonder what might have been.

I don't like wondering what might have been. This dislike seems to have served me well thus far, having played a key role in netting me, at the very least, a husband. So I trust it again, and plug away at looking you square in the face and finding a shape that fits both what you've become and what I want to say, through you, to the world. You will be finished, someday, even if it's only so I can point to you and say, "That? That was my first novel," and beam with pride.

So I'll sit with you, if that's what it takes, though I don't promise a terribly high tolerance for banging my head on the wall. I'll sit with you and try to figure out how to put the pieces together a different way. I'll walk around and around you, looking at all the angles until I find one that works. And then I'll rebuild, if I have to, or at least rearrange, until the pieces fall together in a different way.

This process feels like one big game of pickup sticks, that most frustrating and odious of games, or maybe Jenga, which was always a lot more fun. Either way, I want to pull from you what is unnecessary, what doesn't work, and leave in place your core, your weight-bearing walls. Of those, I'll tear down what I have to, though I'd rather not bring the whole house down on my head.

Off we go, then, on this journey into...well, into wherever we're going. I suppose you're going to tell me that it wouldn't be nearly as much fun if I knew where we'd end up and, begrudgingly, I'll agree. So let's go, already. Let us away!


20 January 2009

I know...ya'll were hoping for a real post. And there's one coming, just as soon as I can figure out how to get the words out. Meanwhile, I posted about my good news over at sarahwinfrey.com. More details when I have them.