Monday, January 25, 2010

Thoughts on the halfway mark…

So, I reached the halfway point in my new novel, The Wrong Magic. I’m 40,000 words in and assuming this book has enough to take me to 80,000 or so. For some reason, this book feels like such a big deal to me – you know, even though it’s my (scary) 17th.

I have some idea as to why this is. I think it’s because I spent the last year writing plays, churning out something like nine or so – I lost count. So, I go back to long-form, novel writing and all I can think is, “Damn, Ken. You think you should do this?” I mean it’s one thing to string together a bunch of jokes, which is sometimes what I think I do with my plays, and another entirely to create plots and subplots and story arcs and enough tension and dynamism to last a whole novel long.

Of course, I haven’t gone a whole novel long. I’m only halfway there. But I think I’m going to make it. Vicky is absolutely sure – underwhelmingly sure. To her, I write books and plays like some people change socks. She doesn’t realize how each project puts me on this journey of low self-esteem: Am I Good Enough, that sort of thing.

So, standing here in the middle of the book, I thought I’d share something it has taught me. That’s one of the wonderful things about creating art (if I dare call anything I do that); you get back as you give. Sometimes, what you get back is an insight you had never considered before.

In this book, that insight is this: A writer is someone who has opened herself/himself/itself up to the possibilities of the universe and can hear the words that go down on paper, can see the story they’re telling, can almost reach through the layer separating real from imaginary.

I’ve been writing about this and it has me thinking about how that place is so privileged and so misunderstood. I mean, I can imagine you, dear reader, saying as you read, “Open to the possibilities of the universe, huh? That’s just a nice way of saying he’s full of shit.” As a writer, I’ve often had people misunderstand me, which has taught me the need to focus my craft and learn the need to communicate more effectively. But with the comes a sense that what I do is something most other people cannot begin to know.

It’s not something only a few can do. I know I’m not so very gifted that I don’t benefit from something nearly anyone can access. Opening yourself and listening to the world, their own impulses, and imagination is surely something we can all do.

Our society spends so much of its time teaching children to ignore those voices that tell us stories, to shut down the imagination so they can focus on their jobs in life. It is still my hope to make my job one in which I can remain open to possibilities, to stories and imagination. I just think it’s a shame sometimes that so many shut themselves off.

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