Last night I had a dream that I was holding the advance reading copy of my next novel.
It had a gorgeous cover in reds and browns, and it was a big fat book. The only problem: part of it was in Italian.
I don’t quite know it yet, is what I think this means.
It means that the parts where I’m pushing into experiences from different countries, different eras, need more research, more fleshing out, more submersion.
On Monday, working towards my December 7th deadline, I got back to my desk after what’s felt like weeks of not steadily writing (probably because it has been that long, with the summer, then a three-week trip to Ontario, then family visitors, then a four-day trip to Regina as part of my TWUC duties).
In the parking lot of the MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina, I’d called my mom and said, All I want to do is knit. She laughed.
Somebody else had told me, so, knit, then, but not my mom.
Knitting is not your calling, my mom said. Or at least that’s what I heard.
So on Monday, waking into the early morning’s darkness with my husband, I didn’t think I’d be able to do it, to go easily back into the book. But I did, and then I did the day after that.
Yesterday, tired, feeling drained, I thought that maybe it was a day when I could say no to the work.
Maybe this is a day that I can watch Netflix and knit, I thought, and try to get caught up with the creativity coaching course that I’m taking and the pitches I need to write and the planning I need to do for the online course I’m trying to make.
I hunched over my laptop, scrolled through my Facebook feed, and felt that thing start to happen.
That thing where you feel bad about yourself, where it feels like you’re wasting your life, and I acted quickly, more quickly than I’ve ever acted before in this mind set, to click on Freedom (an app for locking me out of the Internet that I LOVE), set it for two hours and get back into the book.
Three hours went by. I didn’t even eat breakfast.
Recently, I read somewhere that all fictions are contrived. The trick, this person said (their identity lost in the chaotic montage of daily information), is to deepen the contrivance until it becomes real.
The trick, I’ll add, is not to reject a draft because it feels contrived but to realize that everything starts this way. That there’s an artificiality in the first version(s) of a story. That it’s our job to make it real.
And when it becomes real to you, it will be real to the reader.
It takes time to do this. Time to understand the language of the thing you’re writing, to really learn it, to hold those foreign shapes of words in your mouth, then lay them down on the page as something that you deeply understand.
It’s what I love, I realize. This stage.
This stage when I’m starting to know my characters well enough to pull out complexities, to add thematic detail, to weave in intricate back story. It was at this stage that I inserted the locket into Swarm, the one Sandy found in the foreclosed house in the city, and that went on to appear throughout the book, as a symbol of acquired family, of an old, precious way of life.
There was another thing about last night’s dream.
The book cover’s colours matched those of two gorgeous skeins of hand-spun, hand-dyed merino yarn that I bought in Regina. And what that says to me is that the love I feel for the easy creative outlet of knitting is intersecting with the writing of this book.
With this novel, that I don’t fully understand, that I’m just now starting to deeply get to know, that I’m just now starting to love.