Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Lost in a Book

The library at my school held a book fair in fifth grade. I had a couple of dollars, big money back in the fifties. I bought four books: Nineteen Eighty Four, The Velveteen Rabbit, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and The Wind in the Willows. Even back then I wasn't sure if I was a child or a grown up when it came to my reading selections. My tastes in literature are still as eclectic. I had all four books read within the month, and loved them all. In fact, I've read them all several times, although I eventually got tired of Nineteen Eighty Four.

I've spent a considerable amount of time lost in various books. It's the least expensive way to travel, the only sane way to commit treason (or murder), and the only route into uncharted worlds. I've met people who died before I was born, and those who have only lived in fiction. I have dined with kings, argued with philosophers and raced down alleyways with both criminals and those who would eventually apprehend them. I've been the villain on occasion, but more often the hero. It's made for an interesting life, for I've often been lost in the pages of a book when someone from this life calls me back to reality.

Now I'm wandering the pages of my own book. It's a wholly different experience, more terrifying perhaps than I was prepared to expect. It's also exciting and overwhelming, rather like the feelings I got in the last months before the birth of my first child. That's when I realized that it was too late to change my mind. This birth experience was taking over, and there was no longer anything I could do to stop it. My child was going to keep growing until it decided it was complete. It would obviously not be my decision. Then that "baby" would eventually be out there in the world on its own—but somehow still part of me. I recognized a huge responsibility: put everything into that gestation, as into this one.

There's such a feeling of inadequacy that strikes in the middle of the night. My lead character already revolted once. All I tried to do was change the spelling of her name, and she wouldn't stand for it. I can't explain that to anyone else. Maybe another writer would understand? Since I don't have one to talk to, I don't know, and writing for this blog didn't prepare me for this sort of thing. All I can say is that as soon as I changed the spelling of her name, all the lines dried up. Things stayed that way until I finally went back and changed the spelling back to what it was (everywhere), and then the words flowed once again.

Call me Dopey. I lost a considerable amount of time with that error in judgment. What if these characters gang up together and stage a real mutiny? I might never sleep. As it was they got me up at 4:30 this morning. Even for me, that's early. I wasn't expecting them to all get together to wake me up. When it didn't seem like it would work, the headache started. That got me up. As soon as I started writing, the headache subsided. Okay. Message received. For some reason, I had pictured just sitting at the keyboard for an hour or two a day, when I felt like it, adding a scene here or there, but not feeling compelled to write!

Maybe we'd all better pray for John. I think he'd better be spending some major time in his HAM "inner sanctum." Does anybody know mental CPR?

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