Sunday, May 2, 2010

An Hour of Writing on a Saturday Afternoon

My hour of writing starts now and I have no clue as to what I should be writing about except at the back of my mind I am entertaining the idea of writing some fiction. I am intrigued by the idea that you don’t have to know where your novel is going or what your characters are all about or even what your characters are going to do. Where does the inspiration come from if it is not your mind telling your fingers what to write? My hunch is that it is about your brain networks linking things together to make sense of your thoughts. This is how it weaves a tale.

What else can I write about? Well I would like to write about how happy I feel at the moment. I think it shows as well. Today as I walked up the hill towards the back of our yard I felt happy. I noticed it and I said to myself- This is what happy feels like. My happiness is not attached to anything in particular but everything. I am positive I am happy. It is about physical balance. It is staying in the moment. It is not thinking or wishing or dreading the next thing. It is about my hair which is looking great at the moment. I’m healthy. It is in the using of what I have now to do the work I need to do. It is in the belief that the universe will provide. It is in not having to put effort in to making things happen. It is the letting go. It is the being. It is fantastic. I have gratitude for this moment I am in right now. My fingers are tapping my keyboard. My mind generates thoughts and tells my hands to tap and what to tap. It is amazing that my hands can touch the right keys without too much effort at all. I appreciate that. When I write that I smile. When I read that last sentence my smile grows wider. When I think about what I have written I chuckle and my eyes begin to water and I think I’m going to cry. That sobers me up and I pull away from my fingers and start to wonder what just happened. It’s writing and thinking. It’s the kind of writing that I would rather do than anything else on a Saturday afternoon.

I have 35 minutes left of my writing hour and although I feel satisfied with what I have written and a little surprised by what came out (that usually happens) I will keep going. On that point it reminds me of how I started this hour fascinated with the idea of starting a novel with characters but not really knowing where they will go- my writing just took me to a place that I was not prepared for. So in this next 30 minutes I might invent a character. She is female and youngish and smart and she has long beautiful hair. She is witty and quirky and has a sense of herself as marvellous just the way she is- she doesn’t want to be older or younger, fatter or thinner, or anywhere else besides where she is now. That’s not to say that she has no dreams. Well that is a problem because how do you reconcile dreams with being happy just where you are, or aspirations for that matter, or ambition? Well you don’t. So she can’t have them- but doesn’t everyone have dreams? So already my character is an abomination- great word that. Spell check reveals it to mean outrage or scandalous. So it is not the right word.

Do you ever have trouble finding the right word? It is frustrating. Well it feels frustrating until you find the word that accurately describes what you had in your mind. The word unusual is closer to what I mean when I say my character is not like everyone else in that she has no dreams. It’s also curious that she does not. Why does she not? I could limit this writing to a finite period of time where she was in that state. What happened? How did it help or hinder her- how did she arrive n that state and how did she leave it? As Seth Godin says we all have a dip. It is important. So I then have to write about how she manages the dip- or not. What else can my character do? The possibilities are endless. The question is- what does she do? And here I have come to the end of my thoughts although I think that this is what scares me about writing fiction- it’s that I have to come up with things for her to do and there are lots of problems to solve along the way- like the one I just wrote about and that requires a lot of thinking. Well I’m thinking as I write this and it is quite enjoyable. I am back to my fingers tapping away in tune with my thoughts. How do I do that? The thought makes me smile again. The house is quiet and I seem to have oodles of time as I tap away. The clock on the lower right corner of my screen hardly seems to change- well I have 20 minutes left now and wow I just wrote for 15 minutes without realising it. To do that my mind went off with my character and I left my tapping fingers, or rather the awareness of the tapping of my fingers and they just kept on tapping. Time went fast when I was out of the moment and looking forward into possibilities for my new character and time slowed down when I came back to the moment. 18 minutes now and 987 words on the page- well pages because I have spilled over onto page 2 now.

I can feel a summary coming on- Wow! I have a lot to say. I can just keep writing it seems, but I have nutted out a few things here this afternoon. The first is that I am happy and I know it and appreciate it. The second is that I know that this is transient and problematic. Well perhaps I don’t know but I suspect because it would be a problem for my character. I am also in wonder of the idea that my writing takes me to places that I have not planned. It leads me there. So it is worth pursuing.
The other thing is that this too shall pass and I know it. There will be a time when my writing times will not be about happiness. I will get stressed and I stop exercising and stop feeling good about myself and take hold of things rather than letting them go. I’m pretty sure.

I know this about me but it doesn’t faze me because I also know that I’m learning every day.

Propagating Waves of Light

     I, like a lot of people, have always avoided the phenomenon of a propagating wave of light being thrown back from a surface. Lovers see the beauty in the other while the beholder always sees their faults when they see their reflection in a mirror. The indissoluble core of any reflection is a wave of light (or sound) thrown back from a surface. The interpretation of that wave cannot take place until it bounces back. Which leads my little brain to ponder, as the sun prepares to go to bed, not my reflection, but the surface against which the wave of light boomerangs.
     My mother thought if she made me read Amy Vanderbilt’s Book of Etiquette that somehow I would absorb the gene of refinement that was missing in my DNA. A voracious reader and student, surely this would be the medium which would reach me. Alas, that level of refinement was not me. It was a book of rules. It was the wrong surface. More Teflon than iron skillet, it simply did not stick.
     Thursday and Friday I was in a lock down with the finance department – corporate and my division. I work with numbers ten to eleven hours a day. The reality is every cell in my body recoils from numbers and math. I never cared what time the train would arrive, I was taking a sail boat or writing about the moon. Numbers are simply finance’s granite surface from which I peck away until I find the story reflected in the block of cold stone. I chip and sometimes blast away until I understand the why, the how and the impact upon the people. I tell stories. I sculpt the surface of squiggled and straight lined numbers to reflect the faces of people and obstacles vanquished or fortified. For sixteen hours our very different surfaces clashed with brandished shields trying to find the real reflection.
     At some point during day two, trying to suppress the desire to physically destroy every clicking ball point pen in the world, I thought of Wednesday’s walks through the plant. I wandered in and out of racks containing hundreds of thousands of square feet of glass. For some reason, I stopped in front of a rack and saw my reflection. I could see my reflection but I could also see through my reflection. It was faithfully sending the light wave back while simultaneously allowing my light to go through and bounce off what was beyond the original reflecting surface. A different surface created multiple reflections from the same light. Reflection squared.
     The interpretation of that reflection is, I confess, still a journey, and sometimes my steps may not be so sure. Sometimes it feels like running downhill upon an uneven, rocky path that threatens to twist your ankles or send you sprawling forward until you land face down in the dirt. Other times that interpretation is the phone booth from which I, like Clark Kent, emerge like superman. I can leap tall buildings with my red cape flapping like butterfly wings around and behind me. But that reflection is, quintessentially a propagating wave of light being thrown back from a surface. Choose a different surface and the waves that crash back for me to interpret gifts so many more alternatives.
     The sun went to bed last night. It has now awakened with intense rays of light like lasers between the curtains. I squint as I try to read what was written the night before. I put my headphones on intentionally selecting the music I wish to hear. I choose my surface.

{also posted on my blog]