Integrative Writing

Writing is a process that delves deep – we all know that – but it also integrates. Let me give you an example.

I’ve recently finalized a “good-stopping-point” draft of my many-times-mentioned medieval historical novel. Then I took a couple of days off to twiddle thumbs and bwadda-wadda my lips with an index finger – you know, mindless semi-activity. After that, it was on to something else to write.

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What was I doing through the months of writing, other than productive wordsmithing? Was I in post-mss breakdown, writer’s fatigue/block, and all that? Nope. I’d been reading David Mitchell and Roberto Bolano, f’rinstance. And I began watching a series of tapes on quantum mechanics (C’mon! Can’t I have a hobby?)

I didn’t have an idea, though, of what I was going to write, other than needing some short stories to flesh out a collection that will include a novella. But what to write?

The collection is a creepy-crawly sort of thing, the novella about a writer who is mentally ill and who struggles to continue writing. So the story I first came to had to have that sort of sensibility. And what did I come up with?

A story about two men who have a common female lover, how their mundane lives change because of her, and keep on changing. It’s called “Complementarities,” after that notion from quantum mechanics: a situation in which different observations of the same thing can’t be measured in the same way. Too, I’ve been haunted by Bolano’s style of stories within stories within stories.

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Next story? Maybe something like Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. But then who knows what I’ll be influenced by before I get that far.

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