Let The Story Be

I came across the phrase people who love the interior world a while ago. I love this – it completely explains where I find myself right now. I don’t remember where I came across it. Apologies for not crediting a radiant phrase.

It explains the books I loved as a child, and my drive now to go deeper into silence, an amazing roller coaster of discovery. I’m diving deep into the interior world.

When I was a child I adored the poem Halfway Down, by A. A. Milne:

Halfway down the stairs

is a stair

where i sit.

there isn’t any

other stair

quite like it.

I remember myself at four years old counting our basement stairs, finding the middle stair and sitting, contemplating the end of the poem. It isn’t really anywhere. It’s somewhere else instead.

I loved the strangeness of Alan Garner’s The Owl Service, and the magic and wonder of Mary Stewart’s Merlin and Arthur stories – not the sword fighting, but the otherness, the mystery. I find it in transcendental poetry, and Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I’ve always been drawn to the mysteries of life, and now I find myself immersed in it. It feels absolutely right.

Now, can I catch this in stories? Part of finding the mystery is allowing myself to not know. Can I “not know” about writing? To simply sit with it, to let it emerge, to be what it needs to be, to let the story become?

I’m editing another novel manuscript. It became clear I need to edit it by retyping it entirely, slowing when I reached anything that isn’t quite right, and letting new words come from a quiet mind. Nothing cognitive, just being with the story.

I’ll hit a paragraph that just doesn’t feel right and let a rewrite flow. I move on through lines that work, that feel right, and when I reach another rough patch, I let the story become what it wants to become.

It’s oddly slow, coming in fits and starts, letting the story set the pace. Once again, I have to release all control and just let the story be.

Maureen

Organic Editing

It turns out that writing as meditation is no easier with a cold than regular writing. Brain fog is brain fog. But it cleared, eventually, and I got back to work.

What I’m trying to do is kind of like floating, to move through my day letting the day be what the day will be. Which is exactly what it will be anyway. At least this way I recognize my lack of control over life. I wonder what today will bring?

In October we met some mountain sheep at Lake Minnewanka, just hanging out, and I was able to take a whole bunch of pictures using a zoom lens. This is what the day gave us.

This is how I need to write, to find what I find in a story. Other writers will recognize this. It’s often taught as freefall writing. I’m trying to extend that to editing.

I’m trying to turn off my cognitive mind and just let the writing write, the reading read, the editing edit. I’ve decided to call this organic editing, to distinguish it from cognitive editing. Editing without the thinking mind. I know, this sounds like total lunacy. And yet, here I go. This is my current writing exercise.

I’m trying to sit down to editing with a really quiet mind, and not let the thinking mind, the cognitive mind, get in the way. If it tries and I notice, I quiet it, or I stop working. Writing is sporadic and slow, and yet there’s something wonderful here I need to learn.

I’ve wondered if playing the right music or a teaching as background might be useful for keeping my mind where I want it to be. My first try was with Philip Glass. The music helped pull me into the right place in my mind, but once I was editing well, organic editing, then the music pulled me away and I turned it off.

I’m hoping organic editing will get easier with practice, as I train my brain in this new way of working.

Maureen

26 Sep 2016, 2:51pm
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Words Words Words

I watched a murder of crows congregate in a spruce tree across the street, cawing to call others to join them. Another group cawed back from a block away. “No, no, our group is better. Come here, come here.”

I had to fight to stop myself from thinking about the great names for congregations of birds, like a murder of crows, and instead stay in the moment and simply be present with the crows.

I struggle with this in writing, too. Writing is all about the words, and yet to be wholly present in the story, I need to let go of thinking about words, and fall into the story itself. I need to not think about editing, or word choice, and simply flow with the story, knowing I can work on the other stuff later.

I struggle to hold that focus, distracted by ideas I want to jot down, the need for another cup of tea, that insistent nag to check email or Facebook. And so I come back to it over and over and over, in a circular meditation of being present, failing, and coming back.

Just watching the crows is a meditation, too. Or that moment when I see a flower in the morning, glowing as the sun hits it. “Ahh.” That pause needs to be wordless, too.

I rarely sit in meditation now, as every day is a meditation, every moment an opportunity to be present, or not. Which shall I choose in this moment?

Maureen

 

To Walk The Earth

we are spirit

embodied in form

trees mosquitoes sparrows

dogs humans

 

I learn to see

but with new eyes

breathing from a new place

somehow

being

being

being the universe

embodied here

 

27 Jul 2015, 9:06am
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Add Crows and Stir

I’ve hired an editing coach. I’m learning to look at story in a totally new way. I’ve worked with editors at publishing houses, but it’s never been this deep or this thorough.

I usually look at story from the big picture – top down – and work on the details to fit that big picture.

This kind of detailed edit looks at story from the bottom up. We’re examining how word choice and phrases and sentences support story, making it clearer, stronger, and more vivid. We’re finding threads that can be strengthened, just a little, so they shine, vibrating right through the story.

I’ve actually read a book on editing, and put a second on hold. This is a huge change for me. As a child, I didn’t bother learning the rules of grammar because my natural language skills were good enough to complete assignments, without knowing the rules. I’ve always hated immersion in the minutia of editing, bored by the persnickety details of punctuation. But when it’s in the service of story – well, that’s a different thing altogether. I’m finally getting that.

And so – to crows. The editing coaching is rubbing off on new writing. I blasted out a very rough chapter early one morning. Later, walking, I was greeted by a crow, and remembered I need crows in that chapter. I made a note: Add Crows. Now I know why and how, and what that will do to the chapter. Thanks, CL.

Maureen

A Spiral of Learning

I’ve been working with an editor (thanks to Wordfest for two free sessions, and the introduction to Caralee). I’m working my way through a long list of books, suggestions, and links to articles, and then editing, editing, editing.

Pollen and poor air quality are keeping me indoors and quiet, so I have lots of time to read and think.

I hit a wall last week, feeling like I couldn’t see anymore, and would need to go back for another round of coaching. Then I read one chapter that contained every problem I’m supposed to be working on, and blam! I could see it.

I hadn’t the brain to fix that chapter, but I went back through the manuscript. I did a global change for the words I needed to find, putting them in all caps so they’d pop in the text, and then worked through the previous chapters, one more time.

I feel like I’m circling around the same issues over and over again, but each time a little deeper. A spiral of learning.

Now I’m rereading Donald Maass’s 21st Century Fiction, the last of Caralee’s recommendations, knowing that will trigger at least one more round of editing before I’m ready to go back for another lesson.

This morning I took a break, slipping outside to take pictures of my garden in the smoke-reddened air, knowing some colours would pop in the warm light.

Maureen

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