So now we’re at Geek Partnership Society here in Northeast Minneapolis, where we have all unpacked our lunch and are nibbling and/or crunching and/or typing/scribbling away. There are cozy sofas and cold northern light out of a Vermeer still-life blessing our long white coffee-table, where a variety of chips and snacks and power-strips and assorted peripherals are making their own American modern still life.
I’m looking at the transition from fiction to non-fiction, the jump-start to a project in preparation for most of this year. I’m still “behind” in both relative and absolute terms, but I also know that writing (like all creative process) is non-linear.
Some projects are born in the fires of pure improvisation. Some are pre-meditated and do their silent growing-bones-in-the-dark in the form of outlines, chapter names, character interviews. Some don’t come to life until they have a title; others require concept covers before they feel real. One of the things I’ve learned as a writing veteran is trust in the shape and internal intention of a project, as well as willingness to treat first draft as “raw footage”: an initial capture of the idea or the scene, which can be cut up, re-shot, or left on the cutting-room floor. The film/video editor is a respected member of the creative team that makes movies; the revising author and/or professional editor take their place as part of the novelist’s team.
First-draft time is like no other time: it’s terrifyingly open-ended, full of wild energy and gateways to multiple universes. That’s one of the great things about the writing tour: positive peer pressure, the silence of a group all engaged in their own creative work. The sound of fingers on keyboard is an invocation to the Muse as powerful as anything ever sung in Attic Greek.
Right now I’m in the place between worlds, and the place between projects. One of the scariest things about being a full-time writer is the unstructured time. Over the last months of illness, I’ve lost the shape of time. Hospital time is like monastery time, I said of a visit to a seriously ill family member. Sick time generally has its own rhythm, where recovery is the task at hand and everything else is subsidiary. I spent this time reading, mostly space-opera and multi-book series.
Now I know that was preparatory work: as I’ve been doing structural work on my novel projects, I realize that I’m creating the skeleton, the big shape. Once it’s safely in place, I can climb inside and bring the dinosaur to life, one brilliant feather at a time.