Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Old Friends, New Friends, and the Joys of Sitting Butt in Chair

In the spirit of the New Year, I joined up with a group of fellow writers who all had writing goals like I did. One of the most notable goals we all made was to write a minimum of 100 words a day for the entire month. Compared to the high word counts I achieved when pursuing my MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults for Vermont College, it seemed a small goal, one I almost felt guilty about. Almost. But based on the current demands on my life as a full-time (and then some) family caregiver for my middle daughter, Elena, I owed it to myself to be realistic.

Long story short, I didn't make my quota. An unexpected hospitalization got in the way. So did my oldest daughter's wedding. Granted, I knew about the wedding ahead of time. But unfortunately, I'd underestimated how much time it would take, especially as the amazing day drew near. As for the ER visit and hospital stay, it comes with the territory when there's a loved one at home with chronic health issues. You just can't plan for those.

The unexpected "excitement" didn't keep me from signing on with the writer's group for another month. So what if I didn't get as far in my writing? I accomplished something much more important. I reclaimed a writing routine, roused old characters, and met new ones. And at the risk of jinxing it by talking about it, I managed to sit butt in chair more times than I had in a very long time. And the trend has continued!

So far this month, I've written daily (or very nearly so). My focus has been a middle grade novel, one that's been in the discovery phase for years. It's a curious little project. The idea arrived in the form of a little girl's voice when I pursuing my MFA in Writing at Vermont College. I didn't know her name or story, but what she had to say was insistent and powerful. I knew as soon as I heard it that I didn't have the skill sets or emotional distance to to tell her story. Not yet.

Unlike other projects this one hasn't come all at once. Nor has it come on my terms. The main character is shy and elusive. She appears at the most inconvenient times. She starts talking. I fumble for a notebook and attempt to take notes. Sometimes she stays for an hour, sometimes a few minutes. Then she disappears and no manner of bribery will coax her out.

This month, she appeared again, and this time she took form on the story stage. For the first time since I began recording her thoughts, hopes and dreams, the shape of her story is coming to the fore. I'm not sure how long she's going to stay this time, but I plan to keep working at it as long as she allows me to do so. Will she remain long enough for me to discover the whole story? Only time will tell. Until then I'm striving to keep the faith and trust the process.

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