Well, I’m just going to pretend I’ve been posting regularly…!
I’m currently reading Betsy Lerner’s The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers, and I keep being smacked in the face (in a good way) by recognition of myself in the pages. I’m drinking it in; I can’t read it fast enough, but am trying to read it closely enough.
The latest is this, from pages 59-60 of the hardcover edition:
If when you were a child stories took you far away, if characters from books kept you company as you peered out a rainy window and tried to discern that great mystery of how other people live, then you know that books are the most important things in life. If you were drawn to books and in turn to writing, chances are you found the world wanting. You knew that a record had to be kept, or the world or you would disappear. People are motivated to write for a variety of reasons, but it’s the child writer who has figured out, early on, that writing is about saving your soul.
Yes, yes, yes.
This hot on the heels of her statement on page 21 (I am NOT going to quote the entire book, I promise!):
I can assure you that you will never finish any piece of writing if you don’t understand what motivates you to write in the first place and if you don’t honor that impulse, whether it’s exile or assimilation, redemption or destruction, revenge or love.
I think I write to escape, to build new worlds I can take refuge in (not that I need to take refuge in anything now, but I’m building on a long-standing personal tradition). And by the same token, once I started thinking about that, all my characters are trying to escape something, too, to run away from something. (Sorry, this isn’t going to mean much to you, but I’ll note it here for myself: Remy — dealing with his past, himself; James — real life and his inability to form relationships; Madeleine — dealing with what happened to her. Alex is probably the exception; he’s the one who deals with things head on.)
The book came highly recommended and I’m passing on those high recommendations, especially if writing feels unbearably daunting sometimes, as it does to me at the moment…