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.


An Evening With Neil Gaiman

Last Night I got to hang out with Neil Gaiman, with my daughter and 1098 other fans. Tickets were free (part of the University of Calgary Distinguished Writers Program), but everyone had to have a ticket so the event wasn’t mobbed. I scored two, in an on-line registration that sold out in 16 seconds.

Gaiman is a wonderful writer, a wonderful reader of his work (with a beautiful reading voice), and funny on-stage. His voice and words washed over us, as he wove spells with his stories. He read short stories and poems, but nothing from his newest books.

He also spoke, in his understated but very funny way. “So the lovely thing about being me is that they let you do whatever you want. And it’s brilliant.” He was referring to what kind of stories he writes – he said his agent wouldn’t tell him how much a British editor offered for him to keep writing stories like American Gods, because his agent knew he likes to write whatever he wants, not what someone else wants.

And I think he nailed the value of story, especially for children who are learning about the world: “You go away and come back knowing things you didn’t know before.”

Now to work, back into my own stories, newly inspired.


I Love Neil Gaiman’s Brain

Someone on Facebook recommended this audio recording while I was on holidays. Internet service was inadequate to listen to it, and I’m so glad. Instead, I listened to it last week, just after finishing Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean At the End Of The Lane.

The recording is an hour long discussion between Philip Pullman and Neil Gaiman. I found it fascinating.

I discovered Neil Gaiman and Philip Pullman both loved Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons when they were boys. It was one of my favorites, too. I laughed as they quoted, “Better drowned than duffers. If not duffers, won’t drown.”

I wish I could have seen their faces as they discussed illustrations (it was amusingly inappropriate).

Then Pullman started reading at the same paragraph in The Ocean At The End Of The Land that caught my attention so thoroughly that I marked the page and planned to blog about it. I felt like Gaiman was trying to reach deeper than psychological or mythological – deeper still, into physics and creation and imagination. OMG I love his brain. Then they talked about imagination as a genuine way of exploring reality.

I’d strongly recommend listening to it, just after finishing The Ocean At The End Of The Lane.


23 May 2012, 8:19am

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Writing First

In a great commencement address Neil Gaiman gave (at The University of The Arts), he said, “There was a day when I looked up and realized that I had become someone who professionally replied to email, and who wrote as a hobby. I started answering fewer emails, and was relieved to find I was writing much more.”

I too have been doing too much other stuff, and losing track of the time I need to spend writing. So I’m turning my day upside down – actually returning it to what it used to be – writing first. Well, I’ll shower and dress and eat, meditate and do a little yoga. Then – I’ll write. No Facebook, no desk work, no whatever. Writing first. Push appointments to the afternoon, whenever possible. And write. Do other things when I need a break. And write.

Neil Gaiman said, “Make good art.” Whatever happens in your life, make good art. He says it much better, with absurd examples, but, basically, whatever life brings, make good art. For me, that means keep writing, through the endless interruptions. Keep writing.

I can’t claim to be making good art, as Neil Gaiman does, but I can try. I can write.


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