Write (Now) Newsletter – February 2006

by | Feb 3, 2006 | Write Now Columbus Essay Archives

Write (Now) Newsletter – February 2006

“When action grows unprofitable, gather information;
when information grows unprofitable, sleep.”
                                                    – Ursula K. Le Guin
________________________________________________

Dear Writers:

After I finished reading, marking, and making notes on the pages of the first draft of Memorial, the book I’m writing, I sat down at my computer and began to make the edits. In about an hour I had worked the prologue into a frothy lather that pleased me. Things were going swimmingly. I’d have a second draft in no time.

I closed the prologue file and opened up the full document and the notebook that contained the hard copy of the first draft. As I turned to the first page, it dawned on me that my notes were referenced by page number. As soon as I moved so much as one paragraph, all the page numbers would change and few of my notes would make sense.

I stared at the screen, frozen. I moved the cursor to the top of the page, then to the bottom. I hit “ctrl – end” and then “ctrl – home.” Nothing would change the fact that I would soon be lost in the middle of a whole bunch of sentences without a map. The bread crumbs I had so carefully dropped across the book were useless. I turned off the laptop, packed up it and the notebook, and ran to a coffeehouse where I knew a writing friend might be found.

She tried to be encouraging. “Face it,” she said over a steaming soy latte, “You’re going to get lost. You’ll find your way back.”

I spent the weekend dividing the draft into parts and scenes and using my word processing program to force the page numbers. I went to an office supply store and bought index cards in six different colors, a roll of banner paper and posterboard, and six different colors of pens and highlighters. I hoped to somehow create a different map. Nothing worked and I was exhausted.

In Women Who Run with the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola-Estes explains:

“Wolves never look more funny than when they have lost the scent and scrabble to find it again: they hop in the air; they run in circles; they plow up the ground with their noses; they scratch the ground, then run ahead, then back, then stand tock-still. They look as if they have lost their wits. But what the are really doing is picking up all the clues they can find. . . .[T]heir ears are rotating like satellite dishes, picking up transmissions from afar. Once they have all these clues in one place, they know what to do next.”

It took me a few days to recognize my behavior. I abandoned my attempts to edit and began doing research. I invited my mom to lunch and interrogated her about the year my father died. I began re-reading old journals and took notes of conversations, dates and emotions I had forgotten. And, at night, I slept. One night I slept 14 hours.

The result was a new map, a 64 page chronology of events in five different colors that track the different “stories” that are all happening during this time period. I am no longer panicked. I am well-rested and I feel like this book is in every cell of my body. I am going to the woods for the weekend and I trust that more answers will come. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Nita(what’dya mean you’re out of purple highlighters?)Sweeney
(c)2006 by Nita Sweeney

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