Tuscany is a long way to go to sleep well, and perhaps it’s the late-night dinners, but I seem to dream well here, too. Last night I dreamt that I asked a woman what she would not want to ever give up. Her teeth, she said. For me, it was my office.
My writing life began, I think, with my first winter in Canada, in Nain, Labrador, the sub-artic. I read a lot that winter—all of Lessing‘s Children of Violence series, Anais Nin‘s diaries, Virginia Wolf‘s A Room of One’s Own. And it was in reading Wolf’s book that I began to dream of just that, a room of my own.
I’ve had desks in dark and crowded basements, desks in the corner of utility rooms. In reading Cameron‘s The Artist’s Way I began to seriously dream of an office I could call my own. I put it on my wish list. For a long time I was considering a tent and then a house-trailer. Then came my first foreign sale and lo—the means to consider the impossible: an office addition to our house.
And yes, my office would be the one thing I would not ever want to give up.
I love reading books about writing, especially when I’m somewhat stuck, or balky. Yesterday I took a load of unwanted books to The Bookstore in Golden Lake, run by my writing friend Jenifer McVaugh. In exchange, I brought home a load of new books, a number of them books on writing. The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri is a classic; a number of people have mentioned it. The Practice of Poetry by Behn & Twichell is a book that Jenifer loaned me, a book she recommends, and one I’m looking forward to exploring. The Sound of Paper: Starting from Scratch by Julia Cameron looked interesting. I got a great deal out of her book The Artist’s Way, but haven’t connected with any of her newer books. This one might suit; I don’t know. I’m skimming it—I’m a little annoyed, already, by her predictable list assignments, but, as is always the case with a book by a writer on writing, finding bits that resonate.
The book I started reading right away was (heh) Write Away by Elizabeth George. I like it. It’s nudging me to do things I know I should be doing, like character analysis.
” . . . you cannot bring a character to life in a book unless he or she is alive before the book begins.”
I’ve always been a bit lazy about this, I confess, allowing a character’s eccentricities to emerge during the writing, or during a 3rd or 4th draft emergency analysis.
I like this about setting:
“Your setting should be a place that you want to know about, a place you are interested in exploring, a place you want to describe . . . “
“But it’s tough to make a place come to life unless you’ve been there . . . “
I find this to be true, and it’s a key reason for my research trips. But it’s not only the sensual experience of a place that matters—for me it’s the deep conviction that something happened, and that it happened here, on this spot.
One thing I like especially is that George heads each chapter with an excerpt from her writing diary.
“I am filled with doubts. Why isn’t Steinbeck filled with doubts?”
Yet Steinbeck was filled with doubts while writing Grapes of Wrath. I suspect that every writer is filled with doubt, most of the time.
As for today: after writing in my journal that I was entirely dry in the scene-creation department, I wrote out (in brief) my allotted 5 scenes. Which pleases me greatly.
And then, on discovering that my reader mailbox was again 3-weeks deep, answered emails: one to the German translator of Mistress of the Sun, whose glowing email I treasure. One to a woman seeking a relative who may be related to Josephine (I get emails of this sort regularly)—I need to do a little research to answer. Several heart-warming letters from fans.
And now: taxes, which I hope to finish today. Beyond that, perhaps a walk on my horse, some research recording, some Q&As to work on, preparation for my European research trip (coming up).