Friend/Writer/Teacher Donna and I were talking about our habits in starting new books. Some folks dive in and let the story reveal itself. For them, placing the written word on the page is the engine that moves the writing forward.

I work differently.

I am a writer who waits for the seduction. I immerse myself in the world, but not the word. I study. I think. I do not insist; I wait and listen to the voices inside. I visit the story. I inhabit it covertly. I stand in the corner of the mental cocktail party and watch from the sidelines as conversations and dramas are lived out. I am a tourist in my own world. I am a ghost there.

Slowly, the book begins to speak to me—but never when I want it to. Bits of characters appear if I ask them nicely…emotions, images, chapter titles, turns of phrase; whole scenes, sometimes. One at a time, rarely in order. Or many, sometimes, in a rush, plucked out of the air.

The notebook waits for those bits. Slowly, the pages fill. The story grows with them and begins to take shape; it swells to critical mass until the pages are not enough to contain the world within it. The story radiates into the world. Overtakes it. Replaces it.

For many other writers, it is the imposed discipline of daily writing that makes the book go forward. For me, the discipline grows from the inside the story, not from the act of writing it.

The book tells me when it wants to be written. I am an eager but patient companion, waiting for the tale to tell me “now.” The dinner will be cooked when it’s cooked. The foreplay will turn to love. When it’s ready.

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