Archives for March 12, 2013

When we are messengers


For all of my good intentions, I could not manage a post yesterday due to the weight of the week resting on my shoulders. My husband is in the US, house-hunting without me. My oldest daughter is in Russia for six days, lobbying for the Model United Nations, attending the Russian ballet, and dining in a palace. Tonight, I will pack my son’s bag with a toothbrush and toothpaste, neither of which will see the light of day, as he leaves for a three-day school ski trip. This week, five families will visit with a realtor in tow, to peer into the dusty cracks and corners of my home, my dog will bark incessantly, and I will retreat to the loft where I plan to puzzle-piece together some semblance of a new book proposal. With sample chapters.

I have no idea what I’m doing.

The loft remains the catch-all for everything that hasn’t found a home elsewhere in the house. It’s a hodge-podge of seasonal clothes, books with titles like India’s Global Powerhouses, my favorite vintage furniture, and piles my husband creates from every piece of paper he ever laid a finger on. I think there might be snorkeling equipment somewhere, next to the ikea shelves, or hidden behind my grandmother’s antique persian rug. My youngest set up a corner she conveniently labeled “Snack Bar” for my creative sustenance. It contains two packs of tic tacs, Double Bubble gum, four lollipops, and a bowl of stale almonds. You see what I’m working with here.

As I try to narrow down the focus of this next book (my first one is still making the rounds through the agent-seeking process. Help. Me.), I find the creative process looks a bit like the hodge-podge of the loft. I have to sift through a lot of the boring and bizarre. I need to eliminate the stale and the sugary sweet. And I have to dig for the good, uncover the thoughts that have potential for great, and find meaningful beauty in the old and mis-used.

One of my favorite novels, The Shadow of the Wind, opens with a scene in which a book seller brings his son, Daniel, to the secret Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Hidden in the labyrinth of shelves lies a forgotten world, one that the Cemetery seeks to protect. The father offers Daniel the opportunity to choose any book, to remove it from the world of the forgotten and bring it back into the world of the living. For me, writing is a bit like this. Less mysterious certainly, but in many ways, I believe writers take part in the act of preservation. We select memories and stories and bits and pieces of life from the forgotten. We dig deep into the stacks for the message that will most resonate with the reader, the one we feel deserves a second chance. And we act as a messenger, writing the story back into life.

At this point in the writing process, I am still walking the rows of the forgotten. I’m pulling stories off the shelves and sitting on an antique rug that already lived a life of its own. I’m sifting. Waiting for the right message to arrive, so I might usher it home.