Theory of Convergence

“I have this theory of convergence, that good things always happen with bad things. I know you have to deal with them at the same time, but I just don’t know why they have to happen at the same time. I just wish I could work out some schedule. Am I just babbling? Do you know what I mean?” ~ Diane Court, ‘Say Anything’ 

“Julie, I’m so glad to know you are writing. With all that’s been happening, I wondered if you still had the energy or will to write…” So said my colleague as I stood in her doorway. I’d just regaled her with a breathless recap of the book proposal workshop I had attended the previous weekend (a shout out to publishing divas Jen and Kerry and The Business of Books. If they offer a seminar in a neighborhood near you, get thee registered).

The energy and the will. With all that’s been happening. Still writing. I was touched that someone would wonder if I continued to write despite the distractions of anxiety and anger. And surprised to discover that instead of becoming the thing I push aside, writing itself has become the distraction. The refuge.

Where do you retreat in times of crisis? I turn within. I read – finding solace in others’ worlds and words – January alone saw me plow through a half dozen novels. I exercise, tucking in the headphones and letting the miles unroll beneath my feet in an attempt to outrace, or at least wear out, the demons. I try to control what I can, while waiting for what I can not to play itself out. IMG_1105

And in the endless play of shadow and light, in the convergence of good things happening with bad, my writing life has blossomed. Two stories published in the past two months; writing workshops that have injected me with inspiration and motivation; connections made with writing buddies who surround me with empathy and enthusiasm; the application to an MFA program finally out the door after months of equivocation.

And 80,000 words. That’s where she stands.

In July, when I started The Novel (at another time of crisis; beginning to see a pattern here), I had a vague notion of a word count goal. 100,000 words seemed just shy of impossible; 50,000 wasn’t novel length. Seventy-eight grand sounded about right.

I upped it to 84,000 in October; 92,000 in December. Now I’m headed for …. 105,00? 110,000? Does it really matter? The story will know when it’s finished. And then the real work – the slicing and dicing, the killing of my darlings – will begin. And begin again. So much to do – the research, the details, the fleshing out of scenes, the dialogue to bring to life. So many revisions ahead of me that if I think about it all too much, I won’t attend to the blank page in my hand.

But in the meantime the story flows. Characters whom I never intended to introduce run into each other in the queerest of ways. Portals open in walls of solid stone. Characters find depths of compassion they are afraid to admit.

I have altered points of view and tenses. I have changed character names and flirted with revising history (talk about an A-ha moment: listening to Ben Affleck interviewed by Terri Gross for WHYY’s Fresh Air about the film Argo. Affleck discussing how a writer isn’t REQUIRED to follow historical fact with precision. The key is remaining true to history’s essence. Discuss.)

After grinding through an extended period of doubt and reluctant writing in the late fall, I find myself aching to get to the page each morning. I transcribe and add to my scribbles at the weekend, curious to discover what my brain wrought during the wee hours, while at its most relaxed and vulnerable.

In coming posts I’ll explore the process of assembling my book proposal, how I’m applying what I’ve learned about scenes in commercial fiction, what it feels like to change POV thousands of words, images and plot points into my story. And what I’ve been shy about discussing: being published, despite myself.

There is a hint of coming convergence of good with good in life as I know it. It may be February on the calendar. But it is looking like Spring in my life. Beginnings, renewal, growth, hope and all that.

“You probably got it all figured out, Corey. If you start out depressed everything’s kind of a pleasant surprise.” ~ Lloyd Dobler,’Say Anything’

5 thoughts on “Theory of Convergence

  1. I agree with Claire – how can I not? You are two of the most talented and wise women I know who write. I wish I could be as dedicated to the work of wordsmithing as you both are, but when the dark days come I find it so difficult to rise up from beneath the gloom. But at least I’m trying, I suppose. And like you Julie, I am attempting to write myself through it this time. Journaling every day, mindfully. Beginning to think again about my ‘novel’, not the novella, letting that go. Want / Need to work on something close to the heart and meaningful. Will anything come of it? Who knows? I certainly don’t! It’s good to hear your voice! xxx
    PS. Good luck with your application! 🙂

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    1. I does my heart good to hear from you, Edith. Your most recent blog post knocked my socks off – you have no idea how timely and meaningful your words are to me! I will be over soon to your place to tell you about it…
      I haven’t forgotten our discussion about a virtual writing group and when I’m ready to begin sharing my drafts, I would love to move this forward (or sooner- I’d be happy to read others’ work!).
      I’ve been thinking about what it means to me to begin writing in earnest at such an “advanced age” – part of it touches what you wrote regarding writing for women. I think I’m just now finding my voice in a way that I want to share with others.
      And I cannot wait to learn and read where your heart takes you.

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      1. Oh Julie, I am so happy to hear that something in my words resonated with you. I almost didn’t post that piece as it felt too raw and unfinished to me, yet to take it further would have called for a full essay, and I wasn’t looking to write something scholarly. Rather I wanted to spill some personal reflections.
        Thank you for your encouragement! I have an idea about writing more on this topic so maybe we can engage in an ongoing discussion – nothing too heavy mind you! And whenever we are ready, a virtual writing group sounds perfect! My biggest problem is believing in myself a s writer. Most mornings I wake up and wonder who do I think I am?! Let’s keep talking!! 🙂 xxx

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  2. If this is what you are able to achieve in the wake of a crisis, I guess you just need to have faith to know that out of every crisis something good will come, making the burden easier to bear.

    And yes, books are a wonderful place to retreat to, as is nature – as long as there isn’t a snow storm outside, in that case hibernate – it is January/February after all and all sensible creatures are lying low, replenishing their energy in preparation for the Spring. Light a candle and write another page.

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