Those who believe in telekinetics, raise my hand.
I couldn't resist.
Vonnegut, author of Slaughterhouse Five, The Sirens of Titan and 14 other books plus articles and stories, is renowned for developing wacky creative worlds. I found this quote while researching him after I heard he'd written that we should have six seasons, not four. (You know, I think it explains a lot, especially this year, weather-wise.) Vonnegut wrote:
"One sort of optional thing you might do is to realize that there are six seasons instead of four. The poetry of four seasons is all wrong for this part of the planet, and this may explain why we are so depressed so much of the time. I mean, spring doesn't feel like spring a lot of the time, and November is all wrong for autumn, and so on. Here is the truth about the seasons: Spring is May and June. What could be springier than May and June? Summer is July and August. Really hot, right? Autumn is September and October. See the pumpkins? Smell those burning leaves? Next comes the season called Locking. That is when nature shuts everything down. November and December aren't winter. They're Locking. Next comes winter, January and February. Boy! Are they ever cold! What comes next? Not spring. "Unlocking" comes next. What else could cruel March and only slightly less cruel April be? March and April are not spring. They are Unlocking." (From "Funnier on Paper Than Most People," collected in Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage.)
Makes sense, right? As my friend Chris said recently, "This spring has been so loooooooong." Wild vacillations between tantalizing warm temperatures and then bone-chilling, snowy-damp wet. It's been cruel and now it makes sense. We haven't been in Spring yet, we're in Unlocking!
So, similarly, has been this book writing. I feel like the seeds of ideas are buried under layers of sediment and it's only with a lot of digging that true passages are beginning to unlock. For instance, I have a scene where Jo will grieve for Theo, her husband. I wrote it -- done. And then in re-reading it, I realized I'd barely skipped across the surface of the emotion. Right around then I was on the treadmill when I came across a podcast episode by author and creative entrepreneur Joanna Penn called, "Writing about Death, Dying and Grief with Dr. Karen Wyatt," Dr. Wyatt is a hospice physician and bestselling author about end-of-life issues.
In the interview on writing, Dr. Wyatt states how death is the most common experience of every human on earth. So, as an author I could consider how every one of my characters may have thoughts or feelings about death. I realized it was worth incorporating into the backstories of each of my characters -- especially the ones with relationships to Theo -- on what I imagined that character's experience with death to have been. As Dr. Wyatt asks, "What are they grieving? How are they accepting and coping with death and how does it affect their behavior?"
The podcast also referred to what Buddhists call the little deaths of life, such as a relationship breakup, a betrayal or even having a loved pet die. Each of these losses can create experiences of grief when something you loved is now gone.
This interview got me thinking and later that day I found myself in a chair with my journal, writing down thoughts on how I'd experienced grief and loss - when my dad died, when I was betrayed at work, when my kids left for college. What it's like to feel alone and how grieving can include guilt and anger and depression and self-pity and denial -- all deep, searching stages of trying to unlock and reveal what we need to realize in order to move forward and find acceptance in some way.
So, what had started out as a fairly easy passage in my chapter is now a bit richer and, frankly, will take a lot more work. This book is not autobiographical; but the journaling is helpful in describing Jo's experience and her journey. She needs to move forward; after all, she has paintings to save!
"Unlocking" for Vonnegut meant when nature revs everything back up. To unbolt, unclasp, unlatch, unfasten and to open up to new growth and possibilities -- I love these ideas.
Are you ready to unlock into a new season?
How I'm Writing the Book
Story Genius: Still steadily working through this course and am heading into Week 8 (of 10) when I'll write the "Ah ha!" moment of the book. This follows on the heels of the opening chapter I just wrote, so you can see the Story Genius process is like setting up bookends -- the beginning and the end -- only then is the middle written.
"FLOW - Where Writing Moves" creative community: On Saturday I checked out an Open Writing Studio Day sponsored by FLOW. It took place in this great collaborative creative space downtown. Before settling in with my earbuds to listen to the white noise of waves crashing on a beach, I stepped into a kitchenette to grab coffee and there met some other writers -- historical romance, memoir, poetry, historical fantasy and nonfiction were all simmering across Macbooks that morning. No wonder I churned out a bunch of pages. The creative vibe was cooking!
In between working on pages of my opening chapter, Juan and I drove to Kansas City for a quick overnight and visit to The Abbott, a new KC downtown event space, where Cristina and Jay will hold their wedding next year. Glorious gigantic chandeliers, plenty of band and dance space, a terrace for cigar smokers and a bar that stretches across a long wall...we sipped and sampled and envisioned a magical evening next March.
Now, a final word from Vonnegut.
I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you can see all kinds of things you can't see from the center.