The last perfect weekend I had was when I trotted off to Neskowin in early August with some writer pals. I finished Unkiss Me, blessed the damn thing with sea water, had a few martinis, and got slapped on the back in congratulations by my colleagues.
I left that perfect weekend, my head pounding with story, my heart filled with whatever a heart gets filled with after a creative purge. I dunno. I felt terrific!
I’ve just had another of those weekends, only this time, I didn’t need to leave home. My ex-husband and son were out of town, and my other two kids---well, they have their own lives (and apartments), so it was just me and my machine and my pile of research books.
I’ve converted my daughter’s bedroom into a sort of make-shift writing space. I’ve plopped a few sacred objects in the room, some photos and some books that I love. A chair, and a cheap lamp and an oscillating Honeywell heater, because it just got chilly in Oregon. There is a wall of windows in this room, south-facing, but the light is obscured by one of the biggest trees in the neighborhood, a giant cedar that is planted a few feet from the house. This morning a cold front moved in and for a titillating fifteen minutes the tree bowed and yawed and pitched, its dead needles flung from their mother-perch with the drama of an enraptured baton twirler.
Instead of ending something, I truly began a story I’ve been picking at for over a year. I have written 85 pages of this thing in a very careless, spewing fashion. I had a vague idea that I would write this family drama with a mystery embedded and tell it from a bazillion points of view.
The document on my desk top is titled “new project” although after a year, that becomes false advertising. So, this weekend, I ventured into the realm of outlining the plot.
Working from an outline has always been the killer to the sacred cow instilled in me via the famous E.L. Doctorow quote: “Writing a novel is like driving at night. You can only see as far as the headlights.”
I have honored that paradigm through three novels (all of which rest in plastic containers in the storage spaces of my house). I’m going to try it a different approach this time. I decided, this weekend, to employ the genre-writer’s technique instead. I set out to sketch a blueprint for myself. A literary mapquest, if you will, fuck Doctorow. The headlights will save my ass, but I’m upgrading to GPS to see if I can reach my destination a little bit less road-weary. Hope I don’t hit a deer along the way!