Saturday, January 14, 2012

How We Write

Often when I write, my mind goes hunting like a squirrel for its winter stash. It looks in drawers and closets, on high shelves and in dark corners. It roots in the basement, and comes back with images and sounds and smells I'd long forgotten.

“What about this?” it asks, dropping the memory on my desk.

“Hmm,” I say, turning it over in my palm. I haven’t seen this one for a while. Not for a long, long time. Not since I was six and lay in my twin bed in the room I shared with my sister on Highland Street. It’s the pattern on the ceiling that looks like rows and rows of dishes stacked in an eternal drainer.

“Yes, this will work fine. It’s perfect,” I say, and weave it into the story.

Then that mind of mine rummages up in the attic, and comes back with the glassy look on the boy who sat next to me in first grade, just before he threw up all over his desk. Flow and splatter, and for the rest of that year I avoided touching the leg of my desk, fearing a stray dried-up drop.

“Just right,” I say, and slip it in.

While I work, my mind wanders off again and comes back with something else, one it found at the bottom of my old jewelry box, the musical one that plays “Some Enchanted Evening.” Watching the boy I secretly loved all through high school combing his fingers through his crush’s endless, straight, black hair as they slow danced.

“Remember this one?” it asks me. “Can you use this one?”

“This…I can’t use this one now,” I say weakly, dreamily. “Not yet,” because I’m at that dance again and trying to keep my voice from breaking. “But one day I will.”

My mind understands the wisdom of hoarding these bits of life, even if I'm unaware of them in the moment. "Nothing is wasted" is true. In story, everything finds its place. Every small, quiet thing has its time.

How do you write? What surprising things happen in your creative process?

Copyright © 2012 by Marilyn C. Hilton

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