Hey, Writerly Women. Before I get into today's pondering point, I just want to say how jazzed I am that conversations are taking place in the Comments section and that you're sharing what you glean from the posts. Community is happening, which is essential. Writing can be isolating. We need our fellow story-tellers to assure us we haven't, as they say in England, "gone 'round the bend."
So ... why the book cover today? This book was written by Burghild Nina Holzer. How could she be anything BUT a writer with a marvelous name like that? ( I confess to wanting to say it with a thick German accent and lots of spitting in the process. But I digress ...) One of the things she says absolutely nails what we've been talking about here: going deeper.
The reason so many people block themselves from writing, from creating, is that they are not here. They have a head full of blueprints for the goal, they have elaborate outlines of how to get there, but they have never taken a conscious walk from their bedroom to their bathroom.
I don't think she's just talking about the stumble there at five in the morning. The metaphor is apt. Let's unpack it.
Last time, I asked you to think about your canvas --- that one theme that everything you write authentically will add a brush stroke to. GLORIA says hers is "Everyone wants to be seen and heard." NATASHA came in with, "Everyone has a story to tell." At first glance it seems that they could write one book about that and then have to move on. But if they -- and we -- stay here with that theme, dwelling, as Emily Dickinson says, in possibility, we find that those possibilities are virtually endless.
The key is to stop (often) all the planning, the angsting over the market and the social media demands, the stressing when we realize halfway through our manuscript that it isn't going anywhere. In fact, before we even begin a project, we truly do need to sit with it, where we are, and be conscious.
Now, if you're like me, you can't go hang out by a lake and dwell on this until it comes to you. (I live steps from the bank of one and I can count on the fingers of one hand how many times I've done that). If you can, I am in awe of you. Most of us, though, need to go through more of a process. Let's call it the Percolating Process.
(Friend and author Tim Shoemaker calls himself a crock pot when he does this; not to be confused with crack pot. Just wanted to be clear on that.) I don't know if you're ever seen and heard a percolator do its thing, but it's quite charming. My parents had one when I was growing up, and I loved to watch and listen to it. When it's first turned on, it doesn't do anything. Then one blurt of weak coffee will appear in that glass thingie on the top and quickly disappear. Then two in a row, and then three, and so on with increasing frequency. The blurts make a sound that I'm having a hard time describing in words (should I admit that?) It's like bloop. Bloop-bloop. Bloop-bloop-bloop. Bloop-bloop-bloop-bloop-bloop BLOOP-bloop. It was part of the soundtrack of my childhood. When the blooping stops, the coffee is done. I can still picture my father's face when he took that first sip. The man knew how to enjoy.
When we are HERE, when we're CONSCIOUS, we can -- and must -- percolate. What does that look like? For me, it's this:
1. First bloop: the hint of an idea. For my current novel, that came from hearing a spot on NPR.
2. Second bloop: the idea keeps coming back. That NPR story wouldn't leave me alone. I had to look it up on the internet, at which point I became even more intrigued.
4. Serious blooping: journaling. I wrote about Meredith for reams of pages, and then let her write to me.
5. Deep blooping: epiphany. I happened to do a study (unrelated) of Mary Magdalene and somehow I knew what my Merry (Meredith) was about. As always, there was a part of her that was a part of me I hadn't admitted to myself.
6. Stillness: going deeper. I researched Transcendentalism (you'll see why if/when you read it). I talked to women whose spiritual journeys I know are genuine. I kept journaling. Slowly I knew what the story was about -- not the plot but the inner journey. Merry's and this phase of mine.
7. Time to drink the coffee: enjoying shaping the novel. As a Planner, I did the fun part (for me) -- the character analyses, the plot skeleton, the rest of the research, the trip to Concord, Massachusetts, the interviews with experts. It felt delicious to put it all together in what I call my first draft, which is a 40+ page chapter by chapter outline.
I can never get to Step 7 if I don't percolate my way through Steps 1 through 6.
Whatever your process is, you skip the percolation at your peril. Perked coffee, drip coffee, even Keurig coffee if it's good quality (check out the Black Rifle Company for the best I've tasted) is all far superior to instant. Does anybody even drink that anymore? Even when it comes to tea, yeah, I can make it in the microwave, but waiting for the kettle to boil and hearing the steam whistle and pouring the hot water over loose leaves of Cream of Earl Grey ... THAT is a process worth going through.
So, to think about, and hopefully comment on: Are you HERE with your current project? Have you taken the CONSCIOUS WALK through your protagonist's inner journey, and your own? Give it a shot. Ponder what brush stroke it adds to your canvas. Share that with us, will you?
Our blog friend SARAH has joined the roster for the Glen Eyrie Young Women Writers Retreat. There's still room for 7 more. Just sayin'. Click here for info.