Other than 18 months in a fiction workshop 27 years ago, some sub-contracting work on children's books, then trying with faintly observable success to create series proposals for tv animation, my writing has been non-fiction for more than 40 years.
So of course I followed the guidance, source: either self or other, that suggested I begin writing a novel. Genre, target audience, still being determined. I find what steers me with the firmest hand is reading writing I admire. Right now, that is Michael Chabon's Wonder Boys. The movie never grows old - the cast, the characters, its smartness - but the book has become a new best friend, the one who tells you what you've done is good and that you can do so much better. Valentine's Day seems the occasion to say I love Wonder Boys and I love Michael Chabon and I love that, rather than discouraging me, it is the pointy stick that makes me want with monomaniacal fervor to be a better writer.
My son, who frequently reads articles and reviews to me from his iPad, has had to listen to me - and watch my near-swoon - as I thumb my way back to the description of the younger Grady Tripp, narrator, painting with a fine-bristled brush his bold, writerly self, (I paraphrase) as the Spaniard with the knife in his boot and the hibiscus in the band of his Panama hat. Detail, oh the magic of detail.
Earlier in the book Chabon's narrator tells us, "...It was in this man's class that I first began to wonder if people who
wrote fiction were not suffering from some kind of disorder..." They, or I mean we, may be.
So now as I fall asleep, I leaf through years of moments, objects, circumstances and conversations to see if I retain enough of the specifics to use them, even if only as exercises. Going back into the monogrammed, brass-cornered trunk under the immaculate garage workbench of one's life to see what is there with new eyes or fresh awareness is assignment enough. I'll start with that. Today I don't need to know if any of my recollections will find a home in a story. First, they need to be brought to life.