Sunday, March 16, 2008

Writing the Contrast

Garrison Keillor has an op-ed in the paper today (“They’re nothing if not connected” Star-Tribune March 16, 2008). He wrote about the young generation he watched in a coffee shop in San Francisco. Using all their various media to communicate with each other wildly as if the their multi-tasking messages reach out from them like the rays of the sun, washing the world with brightness. He’s willing to put himself at the center of it without judging it. Type, type, typing his novel. The epitome of living within, burying yourself in the world of within. A world that is complete, confusing, interesting and complicated, while an equally interesting world revolves around you. He allows these loud and open, communicative kids to bolster himself somehow, and contrasts their young, California lightness with his Minnesota, late winter heaviness. I don’t know if I am explaining what this all means to me. The impressions fell on me as if the sky was falling and now I try to sort them on to the page.

It is the contrast that he used in that piece that so appealed to me. As I consider my rewrite from third person to first person. Can I pull off a contrast like Garrison Keillor has, when my novel is in first person? In the third person it seems that it will be easier to convince the reader that there is some magical element. One that makes this world real and yet not real. The reality of hardship can be set off by qualities that make the characters and situations odd, even fantastic. But what if the first person narrator relays all this stuff? Can it still be magical? Or will it just make her seem crazy? Or at least emotionally disturbed? Unreliable?

This is where I remind myself that everything is disposable. The words themselves are a dime a dozen, even the ideas are only worth that. Throw myself into it and try it. The worst that can happen is I know my girl and her motivations better. The best is I will discover how it works and the picture of the whole project that I have in my head will get clearer, not only to me. I can picture it. I can see what I want for this book, in all its wholeness. To get there I have to do the little things along the way. For now I have a rough draft. Some of it more polished than the rest. I got some feed back and now my job is to float in between my dream of it and how to create the dream for someone else. That is my goal anyway. The buck does not just stop here. My job is to keep taking the little steps that can make this book into the picture and focus myself back here on the words that come one after the other they will eventually build themselves into a whole. And as the wind feels as if it is blowing through me, the ideas being swept out in a big swirling eddy of leaves and debris, focus myself and write, write, write.


Writing Assignment:
Thoughts can sometimes derail any project. Worrying too much about the end product, discouragement as the result of unexpected feedback, the normal ebbs of process. Try this.

Do some art. Pick up old magazines, newspapers. Grab your kid's crayons and think about your project. What does it look like? Imagine it and now try to represent it visually. Use glue and make a collage. Draw it. Let yourself go. If something triggers words go for them. Approach it from a different direction. The point is to change the energy. Keep your attention focused on what is directly in front of you.