We all carry that inner world no one else sees. As writers, we get to explore and press those boundaries a bit. We lace truth of the past, overlayed with fuzzy fiction and hopes for the future, string in various pieces we’ve experienced elsewhere from others. What we get when we write a book is a mosaic of all these trapppings. A quilt.
I’m often asked where my stories come from, and I sometimes have a hard time explaining this. How does a painter explain why they chose to use the colors or textures they used, or do they try to paint what’s in their brain pallet, or do they just use that pallet to inspire the final project? I can’t tell you where my inspiration comes from: it comes from everywhere. It comes from the past, the unreality of what could have been, it comes from what makes me laugh and what moves me.
The one thing I can say for certain is that if I create a story worth telling, it has to move me, or I work it until it does. I cut it, dash it, slash and insert until I’m happy with the result. I want to make sure it is a story I’m proud of (not perfect, mind you), but something that’s worthy of being called entertainment.
The only dirty word in my writer vocabulary is RULES. I hate that word. I feel like I want to break every one of them, occasionally, don’t you? Aren’t the best adventures sometimes the ones never planned, when things go seriously off-track and the consequences are not fully understood until it’s too late? And isn’t reading an adventure? A walk with the writer on a journey of their own creation for a time?
Is there a formula for a good book? A great character? I’ve studied this in my early writing. To be honest with you, it now confuses me when I look over those old notes. I’ve just burned about 3 crates of old classwork I did when I first started out to purge my writing area with things I no longer use. I had this temptation to sit down and read those notes. I held my breath, thinking I might find some huge mistake I was making that I might not want to embrace. What did I find?
Nothing! I found confirmation of the journey I’d followed. Looking at those notes is like examining crutches or bandages from an old wound instead of looking at the healed part of the body. They were the things I needed to become whole as a writer. They didn’t make me a writer. They were tools. Valuable tools. But no magic, nothing there I wouldn’t have gotten on my own.
The journey is the destination. The art of writing is doing what a writer does: process, gather, discard and present. Then recharge, process, gather, discard and re-present again. Over and over again. It’s like a garden that never ends. A quilt that just gets bigger and bigger, a heart filled and refreshed with stories of love and Happily Ever After.
“Every human person is inevitably involved with two worlds: the world they carry within them and the world that is out there. All thinking, all writing, all action, all creation and all destruction is about that bridge between the two worlds. All thought is about putting a face on experience… One of the most exciting and energetic forms of thought is the question. I always think that the question is like a lantern. It illuminates new landscapes and new areas as it moves. Therefore, the question always assumes that there are many different dimensions to a thought that you are either blind to or that are not available to you. So a question is really one of the forms in which wonder expresses itself. One of the reasons that we wonder is because we are limited, and that limitation is one of the great gateways to wonder.” –John O’Donohue