Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Redecorating Your Brain
With the successful completion of yet another NaNoWriMo by all the members of the TriMu, I thought this entry would be appropriate. Someone recently asked me "How do you go about writing a story?" and you know if you ask a novelist a question like that, you get . . . well, you get a novel.
The idea flies into my brain. It's shiny and cool to the touch. It glows with an inner light that fascinates me. I find myself staring blankly at it while I should be doing real-world things like working or sleeping or driving.
The idea begins to redecorate my brain. It asks to be taken on a tour of my mind, so it can steal furniture from other rooms. It also likes to travel with me and steal from the rest of my life. Feeling insecure at work? Great! Let's put that in the character portraits. Listening to an interesting accent? That will go well in the conversation nook. Reading the story of Jacob's ladder to heaven? Fantastic! Let's make that into a lovely metaphor for the coffee table.
Soon the idea has filled its room in my brain so full we can't see each other through all the stuff. The idea suddenly discovers something. It is claustrophobic.
There is a frenzy to organize. We go through all the idea's junk, trying to find patterns in the piles and piles of objects it has collected. I try to take notes, to categorize, to plot out a diagram of the room as it should look. I write on post-its, 3x5 cards, spreadsheets, but the lists are just as messy as the room itself.
"That's it!" I say. "Let's just start working and see what happens."
The process moves slowly, and my friendly idea refuses to help. All it does is sit there looking sulky. It doesn't shine. It doesn't glow. Every day it begins to look more and more like the proverbial pebble in the proverbial shoe. I match feats with Psyche's mythic moving of the sand pile one grain at a time.
Finally I make the room appear a bit more like a room, and less like an overflowing storage unit. There are picture frames on the wall, empty, but on the wall. I place two mismatched chairs in the corner for a conversation nook. I find the coffee table--no metaphor, though. Where is that blasted metaphor?
Giving up seems like the best option. My brain's a disaster. That stupid idea stole all the best parts of me and jumbled them all up. The idea itself has lost all its luster. I wonder if it was ever shiny at all. The story room is worse than ever. At least the piles of junk held more potential than this. What a waste of time.
I leave the room. Pulling the door shut behind me, I say a soft goodbye to my idea. Then I see it. On the floor, by my shoe. My idea, all dull and tarnished, is carrying the metaphor. The idea holds the metaphor up to the light of the blinking fluorescent bulb. They melt together. They merge. The hallway fills with light as my idea shines again--brighter than before.
Smiling, I pick it up and go back into the room. We have work to do.