Grande Dame

To survive, you must tell stories.

–Umberto Eco

 

Third week in a row that Wednesday’s blog entry comes on another day. This may tell me something about time management in general.  Hypercritical Gremlins have been chatty boogers as of late, but I have duct tape and pens and paper, and, when properly employed, the latter do a pretty good job of muffling the former. As my once-upon-a-time writing group facilitator used to say, the process begets the product. I’m learning that my process is eternally in flux, which I count as a good thing, because that means I’m growing.

For some writers (I can only speak about me, with absolute certainty) it’s a juggling act between stretching for the new and getting back in touch with what’s always been there, but may have been obscured by the flotsam and jetsam of life. Some bones, we need to unearth, and, in the digging, we find the seeds we need to water so that we can bloom. Today, two tasks on my to-do list combined, as my morning pages volunteered to be most of my blog entry, as well. I took them up on the offer.

 

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19 May, 2016

Today, I want to run away. I want to drink tea and bake cookies and watch movies and make art. I want to write merely for the fun of it, without my Hypercritical Gremlins chiming in. I want to lose myself in the pages of the books I am reading and in the pages of the books I am writing.

I want to pick apart great historical romance novels with surgical precision, take painstaking notes and absorb it all into my writersoul. I want to do this with a group of my peers, at the hand of a master (mistress?) at rows of wooden desks in a medieval escritoire, where dust motes float in the natural light that streams in from floor-to-ceiling windows. I want to hear the footfalls of leather slippers on stone, the whisper and rustle of the Grande Dame’s skirts and petticoats as she walks the rows of desks, looks over our shoulders as we work. I want my pages to forever carry the imprint of her pointer finger in my red-black ink, to show where she put her finger down and said a decisive, “There.”

Not “there is where you went wrong.” I can do that on my own, and I do, all too often, all too much. “There,” I want her to say, “there is where you went right.” She does not smile often, this Grande Dame, and so these moments are all the more valued for their rarity. “There is power. There is truth. There is emotion. There, my blood tingles. Keep doing that.” Her hand, fingers bent from decades of excelling at the skill I now practice, cups my shoulder. Lingers there, in the silence, but for hushed murmurs and whispers and breath. One gentle, motherly, encouraging squeeze, and she moves on. I will find, later, her fingerprint on the cloth as well. I will not wash it away.

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morning pages, doing double duty

 

 

Not quite at the magic 700 yet, so I’ll keep on going. That’s how it happens, this getting back on the metaphorical horse. Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot. Slap another layer of duct tape on the mouths of the Hypercritical Gremlins, and stay at that desk, pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, whatever works for the individual) and study the masters (mistresses?) and tell the stories. Fall down. Get back up. Try again. Crumple paper and throw it at the wall. Hit the backspace or delete keys as needed.  Take out a fresh sheet. Re-ink the pen. Forget all the rules of writing. Tell the story. Take all the pictures needed to make the head-images turn into English (or into whichever language one writes, if it’s something else) and tryfailtryfailtryfail as many times as it takes to succeed.

That, I need to remind myself, is how the Grande Dame got to be the Grande Dame in the first place. It’s been said that the master has failed more times than the student has ever  tried. So, too, I think, it works with  this Grande Dame in my head. She, too, was once that awkward-aged student, shifting on the hard wooden bench, bottom sore from falling off that blasted metaphorical horse for the umpteenth time, black and blue beneath worn skirts. She, too, looked for hours at the work of those who came before her and attempted to interpret how they did what they did. She was a hack. She almost gave up hope. She kept on going. She wrote one…more…page. She did it again. So will I. So I do.

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