Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Practice

After weeks away from my writing, I’m having trouble finding my way back to it. I’ve lost the thread, the sense of the story I was telling. A writing practice is like any other: It keeps you limber, keeps you connected. Over these crazy weeks, I’ve written every day, but the writing is so different. Or is it?

Writing fiction or memoir, I slip into a reverie, slide into the scene so thoroughly that I can see and feel and smell the story unfolding around me. I search for telling details, the ones that do the heavy lifting. If I describe the smell of new mown grass in the breeze—the tang of dandelions and the sweetness of clover mixed with dust and rust and two-stage motor oil—you know I’m outside and that it’s either summer or on the cusp of it. If you’re perceptive and I’m telling the story well, you’ll also have a picture of the area—maybe in the south, where the iron content gives the soil that red color and the smell of rusty metal. The yards are seedy enough to have dandelions and red clover and small enough to be mowed with push mowers but not so upscale that yuppies are manicuring them with those everything-old-is-new-again rotary mowers.

When I’m writing how-to, I watch the project come together as though it’s a movie behind my eyes. I break the process down into manageable steps and draw word pictures of what should happen and what to watch out for. I foreshadow, summarize and expound; I describe and detail.

Not that much different after all, is it? I’m going to go read the last few chapters I was working on. With any luck, I’ll step back into the story like slipping into a pair of well-worn Birkenstocks after an afternoon in high heels.

6 comments:

kario said...

Ahh, I love my Birks! And I love your writing - methinks you will have no trouble at all getting back into the groove - you are a master!

Go Mama said...

So, I'm guessing you knocked out and delivered the "more envious" chapter intros. Well, good for you! I knew you could do it!

After you give yourself a bit of a break and find some time to fill the well, I'm sure it will be a relief to slip off those heels and go barefoot, delighting in the tickle of dewy grass underfoot, connecting with earth, surrounding yourself with nature's bounty...the glassy water, the verdant trees, the brilliant and copious flowers, the sound of birds chit-chattering while feeding their young...reflections on the the pond reflected in your work.

Welcome back!

Many blessings to you!

riversgrace said...

Feels to me like you're already there....but a night out with me and a glass of wine would do it, too! Ha, just cracked myself up.

Truly, though, Holly, Jess and I will toast you and your muse this weekend. I'm heading their direction tomorrow.

Deb said...

You have never been out of the groove as near as I can tell. Your writing has tremendous power to put me right where you want me and to introduce me to people in a way that I believe I've always known them. I'm so glad to know I have Jerri stories to look forward to soon.

Love you.

Stacy said...

You have enormous transportive abilities. Back in that place, word by word. So, are you finished?

Jess said...

Seems to me it's a gift that you have so many different ways of writing, even if maybe they're not so very different after all. But that you have a life that is made up of so much writing. And course pond-gazing, salon-owning, and sometimes wine-drinking.

Much love.