Monday, September 24, 2012

When One Idea Usurps Another

Here's what happened:

I wrote the first thirty pages of a new book. I listened as the characters started to tell me their stories. I got excited about them. They started to breathe. I came up with a title. I even made a Pinterest page where I gathered images to inspire. And then I signed a contract with my publisher for three new books...this would be the first.

But then we went to Vermont (where the novel is set), and the voices got softer. Farther away instead of closer. I was looking everywhere for the story, but it was playing an elaborate game of hide-n-seek with me. Still, I didn't fret. I enjoyed time away from writing and with my family. I read lots and lots of wonderful books. I walked in the woods. I basked in the sun. I ate a lot. I looked at the pond.

Then, one day as we were driving into town from our camp, I saw a trailer that I had never noticed before, spray-painted: NO TRESPASSING, NONE! GAURD [sic] DOGS 24 7. That's right. Someone spray-painted their house in order to keep trespassers out. There were also signs nailed to the trees by the house, bearing the same warnings (but in fluorescent orange instead of white Rustoleum). What also happened during our trip back east was that we went to visit family in Massachusetts and went on a tour of Emily Dickinson's house. I started thinking about agoraphobia and the solace of home, the safety of home. The sanctity of home. Contributing to this, we had a minor mishap with our rental house (our old house in Maryland) which got me thinking a lot about privacy and property and home ownership. This summer we also lost my grandmother, which both muddied and clarified all sorts of things. Anyway, all of a sudden there were new voices whispering in my ear, saying, Listen to my story.

We came back from Vermont and determined to return to the original idea. I figured I'd been on vacation, so maybe these characters had too. But to no avail. It's kind of like can't make someone love you back. And Rain and Vivi are playing hard to get. Or maybe they're just letting these new characters have this dance.

So what next? Next I listen. I listen to R.J. as he tells me about his obsession with bridges. I listen to Sylvie as she describes her life confined inside her 500 square foot home. I wait for the hurricane that is creeping up the coast.

And then when this song is over, I'll go back to the corner where I hope the others are sitting patiently waiting and I'll see if they are ready to dance.

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