Winter fills me with thoughts of hibernation. I long to take a Winter off, burrow under quilts next to a roaring fire, endless cups of tea, and a computer that won't continually disconnect from the Internet. The roller coaster of Southern Winters caught up with us last night as the moon eclipsed and turned red. We stood in our backyard bundled in flannel and boots and blankets and watched as the Wolf Moon shadowed between the Big Dipper and Orion. It was crisp and cold and magical.
Writing practice has become a daily ritual and one that I'm intent on keeping. Last week I didn't do timed stream of consciousness work, but I sat, each day, and wrote ferociously about a work that has occupied my mind for decades. I eeked along, getting nowhere, letting the threads twine and asking the same old questions, "Why won't you come together?" The SOC work is supposed to release you from all that, so I let it go and just wrote.
Then I sat in the corner chair, the one draped in old fabric, next to the window that looks out on our quiet street. I can see between the oaks and hear the crows as they raucous together over someone's rubbish that failed to land in the floorboard of their car and landed, instead, on the curb. I settled in to continue reading my January book, the book I read every January. Greer Gilman's "Moonwise". And as I read I came to a few lines that shimmered:
Ariane began to cry, terribly, with her hands
in the bowl of potatoes, earth and blood and
grimy water. Mrs. Woodfall gave her a hot clean
handkerchief that smelled of air and iron, and
she let her cry. She cried for a long time, in
wrenching gasps, twisting the cloth.
"No light," said Ariane at last. "I have no grace."
"No, you haven't. But you've not gi'en ower."
"I'm tired" she cried, with battering despair. "I work
and work at seeing, and she - oh, I'm hopeless. Like
one of those bicycle lamps that goes by pedalling. And
not even then."
"Happen you're dazzled, trying. Let be. ..."
- "Moonwise", Greer Ilene Gilman, pp. 203-204
"Happen I'm dazzled, trying," I said and I breathed and I laughed. Yes, yes of course. I've tried for so long that I've lost the essence of the story. The beginning, the way it was when it first came to me. Not the exactness of the beginning. Ugh. We won't go into the juvenile voice and the terrible, plodding prose. But the deep current that ran through it. The red thread woven that pulled it to my heart in the first place. Of course I had not idea what that was back then. I just wanted to write an epic fantasy. And now I find myself in the throes of the same want and realize that's not what writes a tale.
Dreams are wonderful and necessary in this business. We have to be open to the Other in order to see clearly the world in which we walk. But sometimes we have to put down the witch's glasses and pay attention to where each foot falls. Reading helps, definitely, as I tend to migrate back to the wisdom of that pantheon of goddesses and gods that have always held lanterns for me. And new works trickle in and I'm constantly amazed by the beauty that is held in the chalices of words that line the shelves in the bookshop.
So here's the task, the Herculean admonishment : Let be. Yes, yes, let that tale tell itself. All I have to do is keep showing up and -- here's the key --- pay attention! The greatest gift a writer can give him/herself is to PAY ATTENTION to the STORY, not the desire to tell it. So today I'll gather up my laptop and sit by the space heater and let the story project my Stream of Consciousness and I won't set a time but let it flow out of my fingers and see if the other lines I discovered -- ones that may have completely changed titles and finally [FINALLY!] removed the last bit of stone encasing my memory -- and I shall let the STORY whisper to me.
Fingers crossed I have enough tea in the house! Wish me luck...I believe I'm almost out of chocolate.