I’ve been struggling to write a new story for a year now. During all these months and discarded words and shifting ideas, (and some angst blog posts!) I’ve put a lot of thought into why this one is so hard. I’m finally recognizing these things.
My writing has changed. Not the process, but the stories that come to me. I don’t even really read the genre I always wrote in – mysteries – any more. I have spent this past month clinging to what I used to do, only to realize I’ve been letting go for some time without knowing it. I think a seed of change fell when Sam died. The third year anniversary of his death will be here in days. Another seed when my sister died. That first anniversary was just here. Another seed was the arrival of COVID-19. The virus forced me to look at old nightmares and fears and why I move through life the way I do.
All of those things make me lean more, now, to stories about loss and grief and letting go, and the need to believe that myth and magic are still out there somewhere.
I’ve been trying to make the new story into something its not. Even the characters have been trying to tell me to knock it off. Last week I wrote a scene of dialog between two characters. After, I wondered if I’d given away too much, too soon. But then it dawned on me why I kept going back to that scene. One character says to the other ‘in other words it could be this, or that, or something else entirely!’ and I realized they were telling me I didn’t have a clue what the story was about.
And all of that makes me realize I have to finally, fully, let go of what I wanted this to be originally, and let the characters live their story. I also realized that this one may simply be a transition story for myself that never gets published or shared. It may be my way of learning what no longer works. I think this will actually end up being a short story or novella. The ending feels near.
This story is set in a place I visit but don’t live. I love that area but in writing, I feel like a visitor, just touching the surface of the land. That works okay in one way because the protagonist is a visitor, so the place won’t feel like home to her until the end. But it’s shown me the words don’t flow as easily on land I’m not immersed in.
Recently I was talking over all this with a friend who is having similar struggles with her art. She suggested I take a notepad and walk in the woods. When she said that, I felt a sense of ‘that’s what’s missing’ and a tingle of excitement that another story is out there waiting.
It makes me realize that the forest and mountains are where the stories are that really sink into my soul. That’s where the magic and mystery and myths are. That was brought home to me even more yesterday when I met with two friends to talk about an old abandoned homestead out in the woods. I immediately felt that pull – who were its people? Where did they go? Why were they there? What was out there in the woods with them?
I’m not surprised by this because I’ve always preferred the settings of woods and mountains. It’s just been brought home even more now.
So, this one set between sea and land will be my transition as I slowly figure out how to move forward. It’s almost like being a brand-new writer again – learning the process of what works and what doesn’t. What to hang on to and what to let go of.
And how to turn toward all those new stories waiting out there in the trees.