I am up this morning, discovering that today will be the first day in many months that the Texas sky is cleared for go on all the blue it can project, and the temperature a wonderful 75 degrees, with not an ounce of wind. Finally.
I fire up my computer and prepare for a day of writing. I notice an email from an author and close friend who provides me feedback on my stories. She writes to congratulate me on my short story Rehabilitation and for it having made it into Relief's 7.2 edition. She writes, "I will miss Jake and Kitty and the early days when their story was being written. Now they belong to the world."
It isn't often that I come face to face with why I sit down in front of a blank slate and write, and more often than not, take walks, brood over non essentials, and spend days procrastinating until something dislodges and I find my way back to letting a story unfold. And then when things really start to happen, and I'm being drawn into another world, into other lives, that I can't be exactly sure where the words and the sentences and paragraphs are coming from. This is why my friend's point that ". . . they belong to the world," hits home.
Only yesterday, I was struggling with a plot issue in a story that has been on my plate for months. It needed something more, and nothing was coming to me. I leaned back and reached for the 2013 Pushcart book, fanned through the pages and found Sonny Criss, a short story by Jeanne Shoemaker. Well, for obvious reasons, with her name almost my own, except for the "r," I had to read it. Forty-five minutes later, I'm crying. I sat wondering, how did she do that. I said to myself, I've got to read this story again and analyze it. I asked, who is this author that can keep me turning pages and bring me to tears in the end? It was then I realized that by studying it, I would steal the beauty of it, take the gift, as it were, and start looking for the price tag.
Maybe, writing is, first and foremost, an imaginative process before it is anything else. The same lesson keeps coming back to me, that the story must come from a place that is beyond my own ability to make happen. No matter what I might do in the way of framing the elements of structure, plot, theme, characterizations, voice, and settings, whatever it is that draws me into the world of language and story, is pure imagination. What else can it be? Apart from imagining, there is nothing to work with. After reading Sonny Criss, I found my way back into my own story and the plot problem disappeared. I saw something deeper in my main character and it was all I needed to let the story achieve is purpose.
So, here I am again this morning knowing that the character Sonny Criss and his Wyoming family has changed me. And, I realize I've been given the gift of introducing Jake and Kitty in the story Rehabilitation, and they too, to find their way into our world. As for those of us who bleed at our keyboards and worry everyone close to us, we become forever connected with the characters who speak through us, and we offer them like newborns, unique, memorable, and full of purpose. Maybe it's this that keeps us writing, like parents, never letting go of the work we have to do.
(Photo by Fausto Padovini)
- Guest Blogger, Mike Shoemake (Read Rehabilitation in Relief 7.2. Purchase here.)