Saturday, June 9, 2007

Winter Reds

It's Winter. The garden looks gorgeous, particularly the plants that change from their Summertime incarnations, transforming into something quite magical before they lose all their leaves. I don't mind the look of naked trees, quite love it, actually. And it makes so much sense. Mother Nature is a clever cookie. More sun while it's cold, while a leafy cover in Summer is so refreshing.

But it's these moments of contemplation about seasonal change that usually remind me of the relentless marching of time. It's already halfway through the year, and what have I achieved? When I start the year, I'm always over-optimistic about how much I'll get done. Oh, yes, I'll get that novel finished and send it off to the publisher, or even more ambitious: will get another novel on the drawing board.
So what have I achieved so far this year? Well, I did send off a novel in March, and I'm now on the sixth chapter of a fifteen chapter project. In my idealistic schedule, I write a chapter a week. Realistic schedule? One chapter every two weeks, and that's keeping a mighty fine pace.
I wrapped up chapter five last night at about midnight. I could have written for hours more. That's the problem with my progress, I suppose. Time doesn't stand still when the words are flowing. During the working week, it's even worse, with consecutive days when I don't get near the laptop. What happens to all the creative energy in that time? How do I stop it all leaking into the nothingness abyss of forgotten ideas? I know I'm not alone in this. Most writers' lives are crammed with other obligations, just like me.
It's during these non-writing times that wonderful revelations can strike - a new twist to the plot, or a great idea about how to 'stage' a difficult scene - I hold on to the thought in a variety of ways. Writing it down immediately is the most reliable way, but a pen and paper is not always handy - especially when I'm in dreamland. The idea is always so clear, so obvious and perfect that I think I wouldn't forget it in a million years. But if I haven't written it down, I arrive at the keyboard with the gem floating amongst other debris in the abyss. I can spend hours hoping to re-generate it, or just get on with it and pick an alternative route.
The best thing I can do to keep the novel alive when I don't have time to write is to invite the story into my life. The characters keep me company constantly, sometimes speaking to me... or to each other. As I go about my business, I see them in their world, and I learn new things about them all the time. Quite an amazing experience, and one that confirms that I am a writer, and not just pretending. In this way, the story continues to develop, organically, on an almost subconscious level. The act of placing my fingers on the keyboard completes the process, releasing the ideas for further tweaking. Some of these actually make it onto the page.
But that's not all. Partly to allay the fear that I'll never be able to think up another novel, I find myself constantly looking ahead to the next novel. Already, I'm auditioning characters and a situation for the next project. Like seeds in the ground over winter, the characters need a home to germinate and develop into three-dimensional beings. They can't just 'come to be' one day and be thrown on to the page the next. I've tried it before and the result is generally flat and lifeless.
So as my garden sleeps, gathering strength for the regeneration phase, so the creative process keeps rolling on. My sleeping beauties, nurtured through their winter sleep will hopefully emerge as robust and graceful creations when the time is right.
Well, that's just me being optimistic. Fingers crossed.


Lisa66 said...

This frustrates the hell out of me! The other night I was at the pub and, after three glasses of sauv blanc I had a brilliant idea about my 'hero's' EC. it was fantastic this idea, so good I couldn't believe I hadn't thought of it earlier. But, after I walked home, bathed and put the kids to bed, cleaned up a little and THEN sat down to write I had forgotten what my idea was. It's gone. Evaporated. And try as I might I can't get it back. Grrrr!!

Scribbly said...

True. Every writer, writing teacher and writing 'how to' book always says to WRITE IT DOWN! They say this because it's the most reliable way to hold on to ideas.

You can't always do it, though!!!

ellen said...

After spending all weekend listening to Isobelle Carmody describe her characters talking to her as well, I begin to wonder if such will ever happen to me. I don't have that sort of relationship with my characters. They only come out on the page.

Gorgeous photo.