“The world always seems brighter when you've just made something that wasn't there before.”
Neil Gaiman

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

In Which a Story Hijacks the Author's Brain. Again.
Tue 2011-08-30 14:11:56 (in context)
  • 2,615 words (if poetry, lines) long

Generally this is a good thing. The best thing, even. When a story hijacks an author's brain, it isn't an attack to be resisted or defended against, though life circumstances may require its temporary deferral -- a day job, children to care for, family emergencies, etcetera. (I am blessed in having no reason to defer other than my own procrastinatory tendencies. Except maybe because other stories have been trying to hijack me too.) No, a story with that kind of compulsive energy is rather a sign that the author should be writing that story. So. Yay!

I'm not sure to what extent I actually believe those who say "If you're going to be a writer, you need to not be able to not write." I mean, I believe it in the general and in the abstract: I am a writer, I need to be a writer, I don't know who I'd be if I weren't a writer, I'm not sure there'd be anyone else for me to be if I couldn't be a writer. But speaking in the everyday activity sense, I am rarely compelled to write. Every once in a while I undergo typewriter rage, but most of the time it's really easy not to write.

This is normal. Work is work. It's beloved work, it's my life's work, but it's still work. If you don't experience it that way, good for you, I am envious, but please don't think that your experience is prescriptive for every other writer. Don't give me the line, "If you think it's work, maybe it's not really your life's calling." The only reasons to think writing isn't one's life calling is if one has identified another life calling, and/or if one does not enjoy writing.

Well, in some way or other, anyway. "Enjoy writing" has many valid interpretations beyond "constantly finds the act of writing to be sheer bliss." It can also mean "Feels tearfully fulfilled when a story is complete and wants to do it again despite finding the actual act of writing an unmitigated tormentuous ordeal."

I'm somewhere in between. I love telling stories. I love babbling out rougher-than-rough draft. I put myself to sleep at night by imagining stories as though they were movies I were watching in my head. I have wept tears of joy to reread a much-revised story and realize, "Yes. This is it." And then I find the act of revising a story to a potentially publishishable state to be work. So I avoid it.

There is more to be said about avoiding writing even though one experiences writing as one's life's calling. I think I'll say it later, because I had a point I was getting to here.

My point here is, I was procrastinating my day's work again this morning when a story showed up and hijacked my brain.

I was packing up my bookbag when I spotted the book I'd fallen asleep rereading last night, Patricia McKillip's Winter Rose, and I thought, "Oh, one more chapter". Which of course meant two hours later, having reached THE END, I looked rather guiltily at the clock.

But while I was reading, a story crept up on me and grabbed hold.

I do this, sometimes. I can't do it with books that are new to me, but even on the first reread a book can become a comfortable, well-known friend, and I can relive its story while simultaneously chewing on my own. Or getting chewed on by my own stories. This morning, it was more the latter than the former.

The story that hijacked me is a Maiden/Mother/Crone story. And it's a transformation story. (I seem to be mainly writing transformation stories. Remember I said that when Deaths in a Dream, or whatever it finally ends up being called, finally makes its way to bookshelves. In the year 2052, if I'm lucky.) It involves some fairy tale images that have stuck with me, hard, such that they are personal powerhouses of myth and emotion.

And, looking back on it, I realize it's a subversion of Wiccan... liturgy, I guess. Whatever we've got that, in a non-heirarchical, non-organized religion, counts as scripture. Traditional Wicca -- which is to say, Wicca as it was described by its founders and first promoters -- is agressively heteronormative. There's a Goddess; there's a God who is Her consort. Every year the God fathers himself upon the Goddess at Beltaine, dies at Samhain, and is reborn of the Goddess at Winter Solstice. The High Priest and a High Priestess embody the God and Goddess in the Circle, often reenacting the divine sex act symbollically by means of the Priest inserting the athame (ritual knife) in the chalice (fancy cup). THIS IS NOT SUBTLE.

Obviously this is not true of all Wicca or of all Wiccans, but it's the spin you get when you read Buckland and Gardner and even as ecclectic and non-hetero a writer as Scott Cunningham. It was certainly the only deity story I knew in my own practice for a long time. And I spent an embarrassingly long time, for a bisexual woman who wants to be a good QUILTBAG ally, being perfectly comfortable with this.

But it seems in my fiction I am unconsciously subverting this, because here I'm envisioning a Maiden/Mother/Crone triad who do their own damn eternal reconceiving and rebirthing, thank you very much. We do not require a divine penis in this mythology! Take that, evildoers! It took me awhile to realize that this is what I was doing, but now that I do realize it, I'm feeling pretty damn smug about it.

(Come to think about it, this is not my first time rejecting heterosexual reproduction in speculative fiction. As you shall see. Click link below, order book, yadda yadda promotional yadda.)

Additionally, today's brain-hijacker had its origins in a dream I had years ago. This is true of many of my most complusvie "write me NOW" stories; it was true of "First Breath" (which will see print and bookstore shelves as part of Blood and Other Cravings This Month! Squee!). In the case of this story, the one that's hijacking me today, less of the plot was in the original dream than is sometimes the case. (I don't conceive of stories whole cloth from dreams. I get really emotional kernals of story whose complete stories I have to figure out. My dreams make me do all the work. I WISH TO MAKE A COMPLAINT.) The dream goes something like this:

I am grieving the death of a close friend. And suddenly there's her ex-boyfriend revealing to me that he killed her. Apparently they had so many mutual friends that his social circle became a very uncomfortable place after they broke up. He had to remove her from the picture. I fly into a rage upon hearing this, pounding fists against his chest and screaming You killed her! She was my friend, and you killed her! He laughs bewilderedly at my ineffectual fury and cannot understand why I'm so angry.

I have no idea now where the rest of the story came from, the stuff where the murdered woman is actually a Goddess who is reborn periodically by means of the rest of Her triad of Goddesses, but it started with this dream. And, as with "First Breath," a lot of time has gone by since the dream and the original conception of the story. It will be fascinating to see what years of unconscious back-burner time has done to it.

So that's where I'm at this morning. Also, I intend to blog about my happy shiny World Con / Renovation experience. More than a week late. STAY TUNED.