Thursday, April 5, 2012
Beginning a New Novel: Writer's Limbo
There's something exciting and fearful about the blank page: it is both open and closed. Open to possibility, open to the moment of discovery, open to the potential of a new creation, but closed, yet, to words, and somehow impenetrable. The blank page is opaque, and yet there is an eternal hint of translucency. There's a hint of something beyond, of images and movements, of stolen moments from strange lives. Yet never clear. It's like words heard from a distance, so faint that you are not entirely sure whether they are sounds or imaginings. And yet the wall of the white page ascends before you. Is there a door? If there is, you need a key.
I always find this moment strange, the moment when I'm between one thing and another. Standing on a precipice, deciding whether to jump. For the last few years I've been revising. I've been writing, too: blogs, short stories, new scenes in old novels -- even entirely new storylines woven through these old stories. But never a new novel. And there's something about that, above all other things, that engages me: writing the first draft of a new novel.
It is both exciting and fearful. Perhaps this is always the case with the unknown, the inherent potential for both bliss and catastrophe, whether fictive or real. I've recently finished some drafts of old novels, and now I have this wide white space before me. Calling. Voices are whispering beyond the white page, the white wall. And yet each day the page seems a little more translucent and I see a little more of the world beyond. Faces, mere shadowed silhouettes, press close to the page from the far side, as if they, too, are listening for me; waiting for what? Instructions? Demands? Supplications? Prayers? The animating touch of fingers upon keys?
I know it is a matter of momentum, a matter of imaginative force. I hesitate, always, at the beginning. Beginnings are always the hardest for me, both in a technical sense and in the sense of my own impetus. But there is rich soil on the other side of that white wall, and the ideas are cimbing out of the ground. Whispering. Calling. Wondering. I know, soon, soon, soon, they will get stronger. The din of the voices will grow loud. Fingers will scratch the back of the white page. Tentative at first, but then stronger and stronger. A rip will appear, and then a tear, and then a face will press through, a question on its lips. Now?
Yes, yes: now.