I have trouble vocalizing my thoughts–one of many reasons I write. I understand myself through stories, or obscure poetry, or my reflection seen darkly refracted by a good doom metal album. I work best with abstraction–which is what my brain is: one great big mindfuck.
Alas, this doesn’t translate so well when I have to talk to people. I don’t lack humor, but sometimes my version of funny is crackling-dry, or so thick and impenetrable it might as well be a bog. But beyond being an obscure smartass, I often simply can’t get the right words or ideas out of my mouth.
So I shy from talking about my writing out loud, because my ideas and stories and characters are deep, snarly messes. Don’t get me wrong–I enjoy being difficult, I like my art dense, but sometimes it all feels like too much work to talk about–but really, that’s just fear holding my tongue. Me, holding my tongue. I hold myself back, and though I’ve got this problem–a problem that hold me back–I don’t do much about it.
Tonight’s writing workshop, however, taught me just how important talking about my writing is for this hacked-up, mayhem-powered thing I call my process.
I started a new novel not long ago; it’s currently going by the name Magpies. I’m only 6,000 words in, nowhere near its belly, but I’m already doubting it. All my second guesses are a constant relentless scrabbling in my skull. Before my workshop today, I skimmed over the most recent chapter to prepare for critiquing it with my group, and basically decided it was dead to me. Which is unlike me–I’m obsessive. I don’t give up–and yet that was exactly what I was considering.
However, I was startled by the usual workshop evisceration. No guts were spilled. Blood was minimal. There was poking and pinching, and discussion–but people liked the third chapter of Magpies. What followed though, a broader discussion of the novel, and my intentions–that’s when everything turned smoky-crystalline. When we started discussing footnotes, and form, and layered stories–that was when I figured out my problem, and my solution.
Granted, the problem’s been solved with another problem–but it’s not so much a problem as a challenge; a story-puzzle for me to unravel and then re-knot, just the sort of game I devour. And if I hadn’t used my words, my tongue-words, this wouldn’t have happened–or it would have been a long time coming. Patience and I are companionable, but I’ve got too many stories to tell to muck around with sitting demurely and waiting.
Magpies was already a tale worth telling, but after tonight’s workshop, it’s a whole hel of a lot tricksier. Foxier. Tastier. And even if, in the end, I fail it (I won’t), at least I’ve remembered: I don’t exist with my feet pinned to single rope. I’m snared in a massively tangled-up web. I don’t have to stay in my head–I can use my lungs to solve my problems, or sit behind my drums and hit hard until the answer comes, or walk and walk and walk until my boots wear out, my feet wear out, and my tracks bleed-out clarity.