I recently changed my work schedule so that I have 2 days a week to devote to writing. This makes me extremely excited!
I’ve been wondering how to use that time and what it means for my forest here, One Tree Bohemia. Given that it takes me about half a day of drafting, changing, editing, and polishing to come up with the kind of 500-1000 word piece I’ve been happy enough with to post (never mind the time it takes for the idea to roll around in my mind for days or weeks beforehand), I find myself resisting the urge to spend 25% of my newly allotted time on this relatively immediate gratification.
I’ve always written. I have a box full of journals starting from high school, at least. Over the past two years, I’ve written more consistently and experimentally; most days I write at least a few pages long hand, some days I write on the computer 1500 words or more. And the writing has been a writing practice – a desire and a discipline to show up at the page, sometimes with an agenda, more often not. Now it’s time to start taking that raw material and shaping it.
I couldn’t yet say what I’m shaping it into – part of the premise of wanting two days a week to write is to provide a space for the stories to emerge. I know that I won’t bother talking to someone if I sense that this person doesn’t have time to listen, is too busy, too consumed by other pressing issues. This isn’t to fault anyone. We all have our allegiances and loyalties. We all have promises to keep. But it does make me realize that if I want create something I’m proud of with my writing, I need to claim not just a room of my own, but the time and quality of attention to inhabit that room (or forest). Otherwise, how can I expect characters to talk to me, stories to unravel, if I haven’t provided the space and time to be a good listener?
But what about my forest? I still want this space to be a thinking space, a present space, a living forest. I’ve decided to shift the focus of what I post. Or rather, I’ve decided to give a focus to what I post here, instead of sharing whichever story, essay, poem, or meditation finds its way to the surface. The focus will be a brief report or comment on what I’ve been working on this week for my writing projects.
The first report:
This week I’ve been thinking about characters in a story I wrote a year ago for my creative non-fiction class. The teacher asked me, ‘Why did you write this story? What is it really about?’ And for over a year, now, I’ve been trying to answer that question. I had no idea why I wrote it, it just needed to be written. Every so often I would take the story out, reread it, try to figure out why I wrote it, shrug, and put it away.
Then I read a column where an author recommended interviewing your characters. I decided to interview mine. I asked them, ‘Why did I write this story? What is it really about? What do you remember? Did you find what you were looking for?’ I asked them other questions, too, about their favourite books and street signs, preferred footwear and pet peeves. Over a cup of peppermint tea, they told me things I never realized, pointed out details I had not noticed, asked their own questions about the story.
Very exciting. My original story is now ‘under construction.’ I don’t know where it’s going or how it’s changing, but it feels alive.
And that is just what I was hoping for.
Have you ever interviewed your characters? What did they reveal?