Do you know how a pregnant woman miraculously begins to nest (organize her baby things, clean, get the home ready for when she can’t do anything but release a boob from her bra for the baby’s meal) before she goes into labor (unless you give birth months before your due date and there’s not even any baby things in the house to nest with)? She doesn’t even realize she’s done it until her water breaks and she says "Oh, well at least I’ve got the onesies washed in that super-duper gentle detergent."
Well, I’ve come to see that without me realizing I begin to layer my literary nest before diving into the first draft.
That is, while in the midst of writing whatever work in progress is at hand, I’m focused on that, picking up bits and pieces of the world that can be worked into that novel. But then when it’s done and I’m moving onto the next one, it’s as though I can’t walk down the street without an interesting tidbit (dialogue chunk, idea, observation) falling into my lap. I’ve written four different dialogue chunks I overheard just in the last two days.I know these things happen every day, but once my mind is cleared of one thing, then it’s freed up to take in more, all the stuff I filter out when I’m overwrought (no, not overweight) with particular characters and thier particular lives.
Being in the planning phases of my next novel also gives me the chance to be extra-nosy and bossy.
Yesterday in Coffee Shop B, I put out the call for historical tragedies to be the backdrop for my next novel. And while I got a few ideas, nothing earth shattering, I did end up talking to a soldier who kept saying I should write about the Iraq war.
"It’s too recent," I said. "I need something with some distance, at least 50 years past."
And the soldier kept pressing the Iraq war, all the conflicting information about it, clearly he’d taken his work there personally and was wounded with the media’s portrayal of what went on there. I asked him some questions and it was obvious, his tension was obvious, that the events he’d been a part of, left him moved and in need of explaining his "side of things."
This guy was so compelling that even the 1960’s Berkley student activist counter guy was enthralled. So, in the end we all (everyone in the cafe) agreed this guy had a story to tell, and telling me about it to portray wasn’t the way to do it.
"I think you’ve spurned me onto something, I’ve thought about that. Writing a book." the soldier nodded. Then lickety-split he was out of there.
Then the Berkley Barrista told me not to scare away the customers.
Well, I told him, there’s barely a person in my life I haven’t told to write a book. I know that makes people shudder. How could everyone be the kind of writer who’s actually publishable?
But, in my opinion, anyone can be a writer if he has something to say and the ability to write it 1000 times before deeming it done. The great thing about writing is that it’s concrete. It sits there on paper staring back at you, daring you to work with it, to make it readable and interesting. And it’ll sit there forever if you let it, waiting, forgiving you for abandoning it until you decide the story has to be finished, reworked, and released into the wild.
It’s a good thing. And I hope the soldier’s at home typing away right now, telling us exactly how it was for him.