Friday, October 29, 2010

On creativity and the circuitous mess of my mind...

          So I’m working on my new novel the other day and as that process often goes, I found myself meandering through my “notebook.” I say “notebook” because what this actually includes, in addition to the spiral notebook where I have scribbled pages of notes and outlines, is several loose papers of more notes and abandoned outlines but also sundry items I have printed out from the Internet. For example, an obituary of Alain Robbe-Grillet, a brief history of Berwyn, Illinois, and a description of the Hindu ideal of conscious death. Stuff like that, all of which distracts me momentarily from the task at hand, which was looking for a timeline so I can continue the passage about when Gina moved out of the house for the first time (although maybe it’s all too confusing, her moving out then back in, out then back in), and as I flip through the pages I see the following note:
          Image: Woman wakes up with a key around her neck; unlocks satchel accompanying 9-year-old girl.
          What the???
          Let me explain. Usually, each and every note, however random, ignites something within the jumbled neurons in my mind. Like a telephone switchboard from an old movie, each scribble makes the well-groomed female operator take that long black cord and plug it into one of those holes, and instantly there is a connection; I remember why I wrote that note and what it means (or no longer means) to the novel. Dodging some of these connections (for now) and indulging in others is all part of flipping through the notebook, of plotting a novel, of writing.
          This quote about the woman has nothing to do with anything; furthermore, I’m quite sure I’ve never seen it before in my life, although the handwriting is unmistakably mine. And so I am utterly distracted by it.
          First things first. What’s with the abhorrent use of that semicolon? Maybe an “it” is implied before “unlocks.” Which would mean that the woman is probably unaware that the key in her sudden possession matches the lock in the possession of a 9-year-old girl. What 9-year-old girl? Does she know that girl but hasn’t seen her for some time? Is the girl unknown but connected to the woman in an unforeseen way? Or, does the woman wake then later unlock a satchel while accompanying a 9-year-old girl, in whose company she unwittingly finds herself? It could be like The Road or Blindness, sort of an apocalyptic novel where nobody is who they seem and everybody is connected in some random, doomed way.
          Wait. The woman’s mother has snuck in during the night like the creepy old lady in that children’s book I Love You Forever, and put the key around her daughter’s neck. The girl is the woman’s daughter that the conniving mother stole from the childbirth bed rather than face the disgrace of an illegitimate granddaughter.
          And…what’s in the satchel???
          Obviously, this was a morning where not much was done in terms of forwarding the novel. But I wouldn’t call it a waste. I’ve written this little piece. I spent some time reminiscing about the nice guy who emailed me back from the parks department in Berwyn to tell me when Proksa Park was opened (ah, humanity). And I have this new idea for a story. A novel? Alright, maybe just a blog entry.
          This is how I want to spend my time, and I’m lucky to do it. Exploring connections, learning about new things and connecting those things, thinking about situations and relationships, pondering ideas. Even if to others it may seem unsubstantial, not concrete, a strange way to spend the day. Obviously, they have no imagination.
"As soon as we express something, we devalue it strangely. We believe ourselves to have dived down into the depths of the abyss, and when we once again reach the surface, the drops of water on our pale fingertips no longer resemble the ocean from which they came...Nevertheless, the treasure shimmers in the darkness unchanged." ---Franz Kafka