February 8th, 2010


Then, the Focus

You know those stories, sentence, or phrases that stay with you? That, as Billy Collins so eloquently put it, swings from you like a locket?

Today the thought that I carried with me was from the introduction to Beloved by Toni Morrison. She was describing the inspiration for the book, which came to her out of nowhere like a girl climbing out of a river, and ended with this powerful little paragraph I have often recalled:

"I husband that moment on the pier, the deceptive river, the instant awareness of possibility, the loud heart kicking, the solitude, the danger. And the girl with the nice hat. Then the focus."

Over the weekend I found my focus on the new novel I'm working on. And so I have passed through the desert unharmed. I'm remembering what it's like to work on a novel, and I feel like this two-year period of not writing is finally at an end. I've broken the curse, and maybe that'll heat things up for the rest of the LTWF team struggling with the same thing!

I have also learned that I am a slow writer after a 2-year break. Three days, 2,000 words and I'm not even done with the first chapter. However, sjmaas read my first few chapters and we had an enlightening discussion about how this is a 'savor' book, not an 'action' book. I'm trying really hard to put as much emotion into the work as I can, and it's a delicate process.

So, back to my Chicago ghetto with the pink bike-riding street rat and the stoic amnesia patient. When I last left them they were getting high on the rooftop of the domestic violence shelter, feet dangling off the side into the alleyway, and Jesse was showing Ana his cigarette burns and scars, speaking half-Spanish, half-English, the city blazing orange in the distance.

The sadness, the loss, the determination. Then, the focus.