Tag: stories

Of hair and skeletons

As I continue on my Great Revisioning Adventure, I’m finding myself moving slowly. When last I left you, I was coming to terms with how growing as a writer meant looking at The Lost in new ways. It was good, and a little exciting, and I was enjoying myself.

Lately I’ve been thinking about hair. My daughter’s been struggling with the woes that befall long thick hair in winter, namely, giant snarls where her coat and hat meet her neck. Working them out takes time, and patience, on her part and mine. It makes me think of Ash and Dust, of Jaz braiding her adopted daughter’s hair and giving her a story with each braid. I’m largely mute while working on the snarls, because I’m not someone who tends to have an ongoing patter of conversation.

All of which is not the reason I haven’t been writing. Her snarls are bad, but not that bad. No, it’s more that working on her hair and working on The Lost feel much the same at this point. What I am finding, in the novel and in most of my writing, is a certain level of frustration with what I want to do and what my abilities are.

When I started writing again (yes, that old story), I was giddy. Whenever I finished something, I more or less ran around and shouted “LOOK, IT CAME OUT OF MY HEAD!!!” Three exclamation points and all. I loved it, and I thought very little about how I wrote, just did it and was shocked as hell that anyone else actually wanted to read it.

I wish I still lived in that place. I don’t, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. When I’m working on entirely new stories, it’s less of an issue. (Sort of–there is that one story that wants to be two stories woven into one, with two different worlds and two different tenses, and two different POVs, and…ARGH. I want to be so much better than I am.) Once you learn how to make a roux, you generally incorporate that understanding into your sauce-making, rather than relearning it each time you cook.

But returning to work on The Lost, that’s something else entirely. Back when I wrote it, when I wrote all my earlier stories, I did everything by intuition. That’s part of what made it so much fun. I just wrote things as they came to me, and hoped that they fit together in the end.

Stories have skeletons, though. They have layers of bone and viscera and skin. Hopefully those things aren’t obvious when you’re reading, just as you don’t stare at your cat and think about intestines. (Well, maybe you do, but I’m guessing most people don’t. That’s right, right? Is this another place I need more education?). If you’re me, and if you’re working on something you love, something you wrote years ago, and you’re revising it in a major way, those hidden pieces are suddenly very important. They are, in fact, essential to understand if the refinished product is going to hold together.

Which brings me back to my daughter’s hair. Long slow work, because I love my daughter and her head is sensitive, so I work out the snarls strand by strand, while humming, or listening, or dreaming. Sometimes the slowness is almost more than I can bear, but I do my best to stay the pace. The Lost has snarls too. I want it to be easy, I want everything to be smooth, but…sensitive story, lots of love…this work needs to be slow and careful. Once it’s all untangled, once I know where everything goes, then I can continue on.


The writers I know love to write to the point that they will fill all the nooks and corners of their lives with writing. They will work full time jobs and write late at night, or on weekends when the weather is perfect and everyone else is out adventuring. They’ll wake up at five to sneak in time before the kids are up, or skip lunch, or breakfast, or both.

There are times in life when I start to think too hard about rejection, and failure, and question what I do. It’s easy to do, and once there, it’s easy to stop seeing a piece of writing as something alive and full of potential. There are so many more reasons not to write than there are to do so.

This is what I do when that happens. I think of campfires. I think of all the stories people tell around a fire, or in the backseat of a taxi, or to their children before bedtime. I think about how humans are driven to tell stories, and the many ways we do so. I think about the subterranean world of writers, their silent endless striving to share the lives happening inside their heads.

I think about tribes. I think about my own, about the family members and friends who have patiently read everything I’ve written, who have listened to the stories I tell as closely as if we were seated around a campfire of our own, the firelight flickering, the stars overhead.

Storytellers need tribes. But our tribes don’t need to number in the millions. Just a few faces looking back at us through the firelight may be more than enough to make the whole thing worthwhile.