Saturday, October 17, 2009

Educating Sandra

In answering Barry's comment on yesterday's Fiction Friday post, I said that perhaps I should continue writing my story about Anita and the Handyman - that it wasn't very nice to leave the poor woman sitting in the mud. I should be exercising my writing muscles anyway, what with NaNoWriMo rushing at me, so I will do that - later. Right now, I want to explore something I've been thinking about all day. Bear with me. It's a little tangential, but I think (I hope?) there's a "Well, anyway..." moment at the end.

I've been researching Fly Away Home and making notes on index cards, but in between those times, I've been looking at a book called Fingerpainting on the Moon by Peter Levitt (ISBN 0-609-61048-1. New York, Harmony Books: 2003). When I picked Fingerpainting up, I thought it was a straightforward book on writing technique. Shortly, though, I realized that I should have read the subtitle, "Writing and Creativity as a Path to Freedom." Oh, dear, I thought. This is going to be all touchy-feely-new-age, and that is not what I need. I need a mechanic, not a priest. Nonetheless, I continue to pick it up and read bits of it from time to time, and I find that despite my resistance, the book is Speaking to My Condition. Who'd have guessed?

I was especially impressed with this passage:

"If you could name your own unspoken fears in regard to your creative life, what would you say? Perhaps you might believe that you really can't do it -- that you can't write well, or at least well enough to express what most wants to be said. Perhaps you fear that, in truth, you have nothing of interest, nothing deep or wise enough, to say." (Levitt, page 39)

Uh, yeah. That pretty well covers it -- except for the "I'm unobservant and I have no imagination" part. He forgot that. A writer is supposed to be incredibly observant and have a powerful imagination.

Case in point: I have known men who shaved off their beards. I have stared quizzically at them, knowing there was something different about them, but completely clueless as to what had changed. And as for imagination, I thought I had none. How the hell was I ever going to write a novel?

Events of the past few days have changed my mind about my supposed lack of imagination. I'm not sure whether that's a good thing or not. This is what happened.

Earlier this week, there was a terrible accident here in Nanaimo. It involved a small car and a train. I happened to drive past the scene shortly after the accident. I saw the crushed car, the ambulances, police cars, and fire engines, the train stopped just below a level crossing. In the days since, I have heard theories and rumours, read newspaper articles, taken part in discussions of the How? and the Why? of this horrible event. I have also driven past the scene many times in the course of my work day. Every single time, my heart skips a beat. For a moment, I stop breathing. I hear sounds that I never actually heard, but which must surely have filled the air. I feel paralyzing fear and sorrow, both for the people involved in the accident and for their family.

The day after that accident -- the very next day -- I watched this clip on the BBC. Again, my mind was filled with How? and Why? But I watch the video, and I am inside the mind of this baby's mother -- and then I'm the engineer, watching the scene unfold, unable to stop, knowing what I will see when, finally, I am able to leave the train and go back -- and then seeing something incredible.

(In case you haven't seen this news report before, here is a quote from the information at the You Tube site: "The pram was carried 30m as the desperate driver tried to pull up the 250 tonne train. It ploughed into the pram at about 35km/h, dragging the child along beneath the front carriage.

Witnesses watched in horror, fearing the baby had no hope.

But he was safely back in his mother's arms when ambulance officers arrived minutes later..."

Even as I type this post, a little voice in my head is saying "For God's sake, Sandra. You're such a ghoul - and somehow you've made these incidents, a tragedy and a near-tragedy, All About You. You may not be unimaginative, but you're creepy."

Well anyway, for better or worse, I am imagining. I am questioning. I am traveling through time and space and inhabiting the bodies and minds of other people. All that stuff I've been saying -- and believing -- about myself? It's hooey. And I know that someday, all this imagining will find its way into a story.


AngelMay said...

Ha ha ha. Here's my observational skills. My first husband had a mustache for the longest time. Then he shaved it off. One morning I told him he looked different somehow but I couldn't put my finger on it. He laughed. He told me he had shaved the mustache off over a week ago. Oy! We B Sistahs. :)

Barry said...

Stephen King seems to have done reasonable well by going with that creepy thing.

If creepy's where your at, if that's what speaks to you at the moment, go for it.

Just watch out for neglected toolboxes.

PS, Thanks for mentioning that beard thing, now I don't have to feel guilty when my wife complains I didn't notice she'd had her hair done.

Kim said...

Oh the perils of the mind of a it will torture you! Mine will say very similar things..."why write? you know how many writers there are out there?...Everything that has been said or needs to have been said, has been...keep your day job!..." And etc...

What I have learned.

1. Show up and write.
2. Write about anything.
3. Don't beat yourself up for not writing.
4. Write when you can, if you can't, then write when you can.
5. It's okay to blog and goof off on Facebook.
6. Write. Banish the critic. Just write.
7. It's okay to wait twenty something years to try to write a novel.
8. Publishing is not the goal. Writing is.
9. The more you write the better writer you'll become.
10. Writing about creepy things is cool. People will pay for the creepy.

Sandra Leigh said...

Hey, Sistah! I thought it was just me. And you too, Barry? This family is bigger than I thought.

Kim, thank you so much for your list. I'm going to print it up and put it on my writing room wall.

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