Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Writing in the Dark, Writing Behind My Back, and Other Mysteries of the Muse

Back in the days P and I fondly refer to as B.C. (before children), I prided myself on my ability to remember just about anything I set my mind to--names, numbers, dates, amounts paid for items purchased years ago, even quotes given me while working as a reporter. Three children and too many gray hairs later, names escape me, I must set the timer so I remember to pick up my girls from school, and I find my ideas are lost forever if I don't write them down the moment they occur to me.

I bring up this topic because of a discovery I made Sunday evening during an archaeological dig of my work area. I unearthed a notebook I'd started months ago while struggling to make sense of E's most recent health crisis. What I found was a startling reminder of why I must find a way to keep better tabs on all the papers and post-it notes I make when thinking about craft or brainstorming story ideas.

Within the spiral, I discovered notes for a new story. The moment I finished rereading my ideas, a young girl stepped forward. Didn't matter that the hour was late. Ignoring my need to crawl under the covers, she gave voice to a story so compelling that by the time she finished, morning was fast approaching and my hand was cramped.

I'm intrigued by my young protaganist. She's articulate, sassy, and secure in herself and her friends. But she wasn't always this way. There was a time not long ago when her world was shattered by events that forced her to reinvent her sense of what's right and good about the world.

Jane Resh Thomas, my former Vermont College advisor, often said that our truest stories are the ones we write behind our backs. I've no doubt I've written behind my back in this case.

The lesson I think I need to take away from this is that I didn't reject the ideas when they came to me without a form or narrator in mind. In a way, writing them down gave them substance. And giving them substance gave my muse permission to explore the ideas behind my back until I was ready to give them voice.

My deepest apologies to my protagonist who, given how much time she spent with me Sunday night (and into the wee hours of Monday morning), had obviously been waiting to be heard for quite some time.

Note to self: I must review my idea files more often. At the very least, doing so will guarantee me a better night's sleep.

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