Where do you the stories come from?
This is a question often asked of a fiction writer, songwriter, and even poets. Creating something from nothing isn’t an exact science and the process differs ever so slightly from the essayist and memoirist approach to writing. Although, a writer—regardless of genre–will labor over similar issues once the writing is underway. I know this to be true having spent a year blogging.
Content – Where does it come from?
On Sunday nights when I close my eyes, I ponder the content for the coming week, sometimes with dread because like most women writers—some with day jobs and families—there is always something demanding our attention. Finding quiet time is on par with The New Yorker publishing one of poems—almost impossible.
The Sunday-late-night-time-to-ponder-brilliance-before-sleep is my time to think up wonderfully engaging topics to write about. However, I usually I fall asleep before the muse leaves me with my weekly quota of brilliance. I tend to wake up Monday morning in a panic because I have nothing in my head except for the word tumbleweeds (words without a home, which connect to form an endless chain that tangles itself into roaming word-ball until the writer unravels).
Are you running on empty and looking for love in the all the wrong places?
I whine about it often enough—with good reason–but in truth, I am always behind on my own life and flirting with a story. I don’t care what I do or how I manage the nitty gritty details of my world there is always something beyond my reach. So waking up on a Monday with only me, the tumbleweeds, and my shadow, is as expected as heartache that follows a lover’s comment, I like you as a friend, but….
What do you do?
I will walk the streets in my hood pounding out a story problem. If need be, I will pour myself a glass wine and listen to my favorite singer-song writers for inspiration. But mostly, if I am void of story and content brilliance, I will slip into my mind and wander through my memories. I am a woman of many faces, as well all are. Go look in the mirror if you doubt me.
I start in the farest corner, where dust is inches thick and life’s moments are haphazardly stacked. I am frequently waylaid in this alcove because the pile, **FOR SAFE KEEPING**, woos me. It promises the world if only I’d pour a glass of wine and sit. Secrets and juicy tidbits reside here, all clamoring to reach the top of the pile. It’s my favorite stack as there is always a story for the telling in this heap of past lives.
Come-hither, the closet at the top of the stairs in my mind
The come-hither closet is like a junk drawer in your kitchen. It’s where I store anything not filed or labeled (my mind, unlike my organized hard drive, could use an intervention or spring-cleaning by Merry Maids).
Come-hither as defined in the dictionary: sexually inviting or provocative. You’re wondering why I have a closet at the top of the stairs with this name, yes. Well, herein is the point and answer to the question I started with, which was, where do the stories come from?
I don’t know that I can explain without someone suggesting I see a mind doctor, but here goes:
As a writer, everything I see, feel, touch, experience, watch, taste, smell, ponder, pass over, and survive, has a certain come-hither quality to it, and yes sometimes it’s sexy and too tempting for me to resist. A word or expression that pulls me to my knees I will toss into the closet. A character will whisper in my ear while I am shopping at Target or pumping gas, and I’ll send her to the closet. The lyric in a song by Brandi, Dwight, Matt, Mary Chapin, or Rob, will write itself upon my body and be there waiting for me when I next visit the closet. A conversation I dropped in on at Starbucks, the smell of baking bread, an empty box of shoe dye, the recipe for green chili stew, the road trips I took across the desert with my dad, the afternoon I walked through the Bank of England contemplating my future, the lover I never stopped loving, a funeral for a friend. A comment left on my blog. All are stored in the closet, waiting.
Is it magic?
I confess to believing there is little bit of hocus pocus to the story telling, but mostly I think it’s there in the genetic code, this art of how-to, it’s innate. As for the science of writing, the diligence, the sit-my-ass-down-in-the-chair-and-write, the don’t-give-up aspect of writing, well that’s part gumption and part passion. You have to want it bad to sit in the chair day after day sifting through your closets and journals for the next story, which tends to show up when you least expect it and from the most obscure tumbleweeds.
Is it magic, gumption, or both? For fun, do you have a closet in your mind where you store your tidbits?