Going to the basement

Scary basementThis morning, I literally had to go to the basement (to let the meter man in). While I was down there, I opened up my old file cabinet. I was procrastinating. (I really needed a break.)

I found:

The first novel I ever wrote, the one that starts with a 12 year old girl waking up and getting out of bed. (oy)

My stapler!!!! With a box of staples. (Seems trivial, but I recently spent an entire day looking for a stapler.)

A stack of notebooks. From conferences, school, and retreats. (That’s where they went!!!)

Of course, since I was in no mood to go back to work, I pulled one out of the stack and opened to a random page, hoping for a bit of inspiration.

Across the page it said in big black letters: Write about what scares you. What are your monsters? (Thank you, Jane Resh Thomas!)

I recently was talking about this idea with Laura Ruby. Writing about your monsters…or going to the basement…or facing your fears….whatever you want to call it….isn’t easy. It means admitting that you are offering up more than made-up people in a made-up world. It often means looking within and recognizing something tough or icky or limiting about yourself. And this can make us feel vulnerable. Often this can make us want to write about something else.

These days, I’ve been writing about something that has pushed every alarm bell in my body. In fact, as I look at my first draft, I see how I tried to soften the blow. But now I’m not. Now I think I finally understand the characters. And that is mostly because I see something in myself in this girl. In this character, I face some of my monsters.

Now. Deep breath. Back to my basement!

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4 Responses
  1. Kathy Quimby

    April Lurie’s lecture this last residency was on much the same thing–our need to face our fears fully in order to be truthful on the page. It’s worth a listen when it’s posted.

    1. Oooh, I will have to look for it. My notes came from an end of semester meeting, where we were all discussing our progress. I remember it well (mostly, because I sobbed!!!) But it was really interesting looking at my journal after the fact. The monsters are real. They are in the work. Since then, I know my character emotions are more authentic when I am embracing fear!

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