Do you not LOVE this image by Jose Antonio Alba? I think this young woman is one of us, going out with lanterns in search of herself, just as Natasha and Laureen are hacking through the jungle with a machete trying to get to the unreachable castle (keep hacking, Natasha; you'll get there) and just as Gloria continues to dive deeper and deeper into the ocean, below the creatures she's already familiar with. Your images of you looking for you have been nothing short of exquisite, and I hope those of you who haven't tried this yet will do so. If you have no clue what I'm talking about, just take a peek at the post entitled, "Being Out With Lanterns: Part Two."
Your responses indicate that moving on will produce even more wonderfulness, so let's do that. But first, an announcement:
THE ZOOM SESSION SATURDAY, MARCH 20 AT 2:00 P.M. CENTRAL TIME IS A GO!!!
Many of you have emailed or posted that you're in, and I'll send each of you a Zoom invite this weekend. If you haven't let me know you'd like to be included, please do. Again, either post a comment or email me. More details to come!
Now, back to the searching.
Since you may be wondering what this has to do with our writing, let me explain before I extend this next challenge. I've been working on my latest novel for far longer than I have ever engaged with a project before. In the glory days of Christian fiction, I was known as something of a speed writer, so to linger and ponder and revise and step back comprises a relatively new approach for me. My process has changed.
At first I thought that was because I was luxuriating in the deliciousness of not having a deadline or a hovering editor I needed to please, and that was definitely part of my slowing down. But recently I've discovered that the main reason is that I'm learning more about myself in the writing of this book than I ever have in my almost 40 years as a published author. I've always discovered something, usually in retrospect. This time, however, I am keenly aware that shaping this story is all ABOUT swinging lanterns into corners of darkness.
This has now become intentional, and my writing has deepened as a result. Like Gloria I'm diving beneath the familiar fish. Like Colleen, I'm often going down that gold-studded tunnel with a flashlight. I'm like every one of you who has an image of this journey to the core of the soul.
This, I believe, is why we write. This is what makes for the most vivid and meaningful stories and non-fiction pieces. This is what breaks us out of trying to figure out what "they" want -- what's hot right now -- what has the best chance of getting us published.
The THIS I'm speaking of is that glimmer of yourself that you find while galloping mentally down the beach on a stallion like Andrea or mining for gold in a tunnel like Colleen. You see THIS, and it becomes your theme. You see THIS and it plumps out a character who before was flat. You find THIS and the story takes as many twists and turns as you've taken to get here. You hear THIS and your mind sings and your fingers tap out a rhythm on the keyboard that is yours and yours alone.
So here's your challenge -- because we learn our art best by doing.
1. Spend some mental time with your image (or Emily Dickinson's lanterns). Imagine yourself in that jungle, in those woods, under that ocean, riding down that beach. Do it in your mind or on paper.
3. Who are you when you're engaged in that exploration? Is she someone you know? Or is she someone you want to be?
4. In either case, she is you. Find one word or one phrase or one sentence that describes THAT you. Don't overthink it. Go with what immediately comes to you. Whether it appeals to you or not, capture it.
5. Then share it with us. Be as succinct as you want to, because there will be another challenge at the end of the week. And trust me: This is all going somewhere. Somewhere good. Somewhere writerly.
In the meantime, let the process be Insanely Interesting. Just like you.