If yesterday’s post was a describing of the campfire tales we tell ourselves, this is about the beads that are piling up in the glass jar of the notebook.

They appear in my head without rhyme, reason or plan. They are scattered; separate. They don’t resemble one another.  They don’t even resemble beads…sometimes they are more like a collection of postcards, dropped on the floor; like pixels that haven’t yet resolved into images.

Bit of plot. Spoken lines. Character quirks. A name; a chapter title.  Short snippets of events. Into the jar they go. When the notebooks—the glass jars—are so blindingly full that they won’t hold another bead, the writing begins. When the jars are full, it must.

By now, an internal logic has already begun to present itself. Along with the raw need to write comes a shape, a logic. Movement. Direction. The story knows, in ways general and specific, what it wants to be. But the beads will not assemble themselves into beautiful sense: That’s my job.

The writer searches through the collected wonders, looking for gems of the right shape, the right sheen, the right color to be strung together into plot. By then, flourishes and ornaments have already found their own way onto strings of their own. All are food for wonder. Gradually, a story appears, sometimes clunk and awkward, sometimes breathtaking.

The string that carries this newly-made story isn’t always strong enough for its burden. Sometimes the thread unravels. Sometimes it breaks. And when it fails, an odd thing happens: Most of the beads remain where they were placed, suspended in the air as if by magic. One plucks them out of their anti-gravity float and places them elsewhere, where the story’s pace wants them to go.

In the end, the notebook/jar always has a few bits and bobs left over…ideas that evolved into something better and stronger during the initial collecting…sad little things that should never had been collected at all. Homely bits. Broken remnants. They don’t rattle around in their emptied jars; they are demurely silent. These pieces I keep—not because I ever plan to use them, but because the act of collecting has exalted them. Saving them honors the intent if not the result.

One jar emptied, another beginning to fill. The next work. A string that (if the writer stays true to herself) goes on forever.

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