For the last few weeks, I’ve been writing.
But I haven’t gone near my PC or Tablet, and haven’t put a word to paper. It’s all been in my head.
Here’s what I started with: a problem. To move my 25th book forward, I needed my protagonist to have a confrontation with a minor character. I knew what this woman’s role was in the book and how she drove the plot forward.
Yet she herself was blank. I had no idea what she looked like, what she sounded like, what kind of house she had. None of that was real. And so I mused about it. Walking, showering, and especially working out at the gym. Freeing my mind and focusing on repetitive physical activity (treadmill, weights) has always helped me write. Even if I’m not consciously writing, my subconscious is beavering away at the problem, or answering the questions I’ve posed myself.
And after a few weeks, the answers came to me when I did something a bit different, worked out three days in a row. Suddenly I could see this woman limping up her driveway lined with impatiens. I knew why she had planted them, and why she limped. Better still, I heard her speaking her first line to my protagonist, and once he answered, the scene took off.
But it’s still in my head. Building. Blossoming. Adding layers and complications. Making connections with other parts of the book. Many words, many realities.
I still haven’t written much of anything down, because after so many years of writing, I know my own process well enough to know I’m not ready. I want to feel full of the scene that will anchor a whole chapter and push the book to its dark climax.
Writing isn’t just the physical act of clicking keys or wielding pen or pencil or even dictating. It takes place invisibly to everyone else but us. That’s why sometimes it feels so magical. And that’s why it’s often hard to answer the well-meant question “What are you working on?” I often don’t want to say, and sometimes I’m not even sure.
It’s a lot easier when someone asks me “Are you writing a new book?” My reply is “Always.”
Ionesco said that “A writer never has a vacation. For a writer life consists of either writing or thinking about writing.” To me, thinking about writing is writing.