The crazy thing about the creative process–well, one of the plethora of crazy things–is that it isn’t linear. In fact, it’s an awful lot like shooting down a mountain creek in your kayak and hoping things turn out okay.
I was talking over my novel with a fellow writer today, and she was interested in my Mormon background and how this informs my novel.
“Maybe you should write that story–the true story of how you left,” she said.
I smiled. I didn’t know how to politely say I’d rather not; it’s just for me. So I just shrugged. “People say that sometimes.”
“I don’t mean for public reading. I mean just for yourself.” And that’s one of the things I love about writers–how well they read people. You can fudge, but they’ll see right through you. “Hey,” she added, “it’s great to always be writing what you’re writing. But sometimes you’ve got to go back and write down what you remember, sort out the real from the fantasy. And then you can go back to the fiction, and it gets clearer.”
We sat in the cafe for a long time, until dusk, talking about all that–the mysteries of the process, the importance of details, the need for doorways into and out of our fiction, and how fragile our memories are. Our pasts shrouded, obscured like the mist over Seattle where tonight I stood on a dock and made out the lights north of Gasworks Park, orange smears in the fog. It’s hard enough to make out our own history sometimes. It gets harder when you turn it into fiction.
So I put my hands in my pockets and walked back to the bus stop, back to my desk. She is right. Sometimes the straight route is not always the fastest. It just depends on where you’re going and how.