This Week’s Bit of String: A library getaway
A couple of weeks ago, a Sixth Form student I’d been working with not only passed her English GCSE re-sit—she aced it. It was a marvellous hullabaloo; the whole school was thrilled.
Now that I’m not accompanying her to re-take lessons with obstreperous peers, or helping her hunt down alliterations and pathetic fallacy, we can spend her supported study periods preparing for independent life, and pursuing her own creative interests.
One of these is writing. She is determinedly working on a novel about a teen with superpowers.
Last week she said, “I know what will happen next. They’ll escape to a library that’s full of magic spell books.” She leaned in with a little smile. “I’ve always wanted to write a story set in a library.”
I had a little, goshdarn-it-why-didn’t-I-think-of-that moment. Should we be thinking in these terms more frequently, focusing on what we’d really love to write about?
Love What You Write
Maybe you already do that. Hopefully you do. I fumble around in the chaos of daily life for my little bits of string and try to judge which ones might be the most publishable, the most profitable. Maybe that’s not the best measure of what I should be working on.
Often I seize on a concept, a what if… what if I became intangible and my hands had no impact when I tried to clean or shape or touch, what if eye contact between humans was literally hazardous? I write notes on these and compile images, but find myself disengaged when I start my process with mere ideas.
I’ve noted this before, but need reminding. We have to write what we like. Otherwise, the slog will be evident. And of course, this is supposed to be fun. It’s necessary to our beings to create, but it’s also supposed to feel good, at least after a fashion.
I’m a bit jealous of poets; I feel as if they’re allowed to take a particularly striking tree, or a memorable event or cherished location and craft with it, run with its imagery and emotion, unfettered by plot. It’s not that I think poetry is simple. You have to imbue it with rhythm and beauty yet make it look effortless… Admit it though, finding a beginning, middle, and end for prose can be a wrench. I’m not convinced every idea is MEANT to be plotted.
A Bucket List for Writing
Or if we could be ancient Greek astronomers, designing constellations, grasping at our favourite stars and assigning shapes to them. I know, trying to make a story out of some random thing that interests us can be as far-fetched as dragging out a concept that doesn’t grip our soul. But it can’t hurt to play around with such things a bit, and see what ends up working.
I’m coming up with a bucket list I want to write about. People (literal-minded characters feeling at odds with their own time period), settings (the sea, a couch cushion den, fairy castle tree stumps with moss-lined turrets and mushroom spiral staircases), props (lilacs, root beer, doll collections…)
I’m not going to force a single story to revolve around these like a jukebox musical. But they could make good starting points, or exciting background details to add when I’m feeling stuck.
In a sense, we can incorporate poems, odes to what we love, into the scenery of our stories. What sort of character might love the things we love? Or, what could some of these images mean to someone who’s experienced them completely differently–to someone suffering acute grief, or addiction, or whose perception would be different due to sensory impairment?
I’ve just started another rewrite of my Eve novel. I love those characters and that world, but it’s brutal going through again, making my sentences fear for their lives. I’m also finishing a draft of a short story, and always doing my daily scribbles and fiddling with other ideas.
Watching my student discover the creation process, though, makes me pine for that fresh taste. So I’ve been taking notes on a cast of characters for a new, long project. Pages of family history, sense memories, likes and dislikes, beliefs. It’s such fun, like when you start a relationship that’s all your own and you don’t have to worry what anyone else thinks because they’re all yours; you haven’t introduced them to anybody yet. What a luxury!
Do you relish the creation stage? What would be on your writing bucket list?