In pursuit of unbounded possibility

EXT. – DINER – EARLY MORNING

The camera moves across a parking lot with big sky in the background and sunrise clouds, toward a diner with a plate glass window. Through the slightly misted window we see A MAN sitting alone at a table looking down into a steaming cup. A WAITRESS approaches with a plate in one hand and a pot of coffee in the other. She puts the plate on the table. We see her ask the man something. He shakes his head. She goes away and he continues sitting in the same position.

A diner in Albuquerque, NM. Courtesy of Google Maps.

A diner in Albuquerque, NM. Courtesy of Google Maps.

Who is the man? Why is he alone in the diner? How long has be been there? Is he waiting for someone? What did the waitress ask? And, perhaps most importantly, What happens next?

This is the seduction of the first scene, the first few pages, the first chapter. For viewers or readers, it’s the moment of intrigue—the hook that draws them into the story. For a writer, it’s like falling in love. You never get back that anticipatory excitement and that sense of endless possibility. Anything can happen. This is why writers—or at least why I—begin new work again and again, despite knowing the fleetingness of initial infatuation and how difficult it can be to sustain a commitment.

Now, like so many living through these interesting times, I want a reason to wake up every morning. So I’m starting something new—actually, two new things—despite being in the middle of a book launch and not yet finished with the novel that sneaked up on me almost three years ago.

Thing #1 – Another novel. I know. The world needs another novel like… like a hole in the head. Oh, wait. Maybe we do need more art in the world. This novel promises to be both political and personal, both real and magical. As with everything I start, I am unsure whether the finished result can ever hope match the vision in my head. But that’s no reason not to try.

Thing #2 – A screenplay. I’ve decided to date against type and try my hand at screenwriting, in collaboration with another novelist I met at the Sonoma County Writers Camp last summer. We thought it might be fun to try writing a script. To some, this may sound equivalent to, “I’m driving needles under my fingernails—just for fun.” What can I say? I’m a writer. I’m looking forward both to learning something new and to the process of collaboration.

I sit at the brink of two new affairs. Who knows where they will lead? I’m excited now, though also fully aware that the intensity of infatuation will fade. My work and I will grow to loathe each other. We’ll want a divorce. We’ll kiss and make up. Eventually our relationship will come to its natural end and I’ll move on to the next thing.

Writers, how do you feel at the start of a new project? Dizzy with anticipation? Trembling with anxiety?

And readers, what do you like best: beginnings, middles, or ends?

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17 thoughts on “In pursuit of unbounded possibility

  1. Wowza…sounds like somebody is inspired to be tackling two new projects. That’s awesome! Sometimes when I’m busiest, that happens to me too. Kudos to you for trying a screenplay. I’d like to do that some day.

    And P.S…the world can never have too much art. And these days, the world needs it more than ever.

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  2. That’s a great way to think about it – as falling in love – that makes me want to start a new one right away now! I probably feel that way more when picking out and reading a new book. The anticipation is always exciting. And now I’m excited to hear more about your new projects!

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  3. I love the way you write about WRITING – the mindset, the emotions, all the juicy details of the creative process! I’m a writer but rarely write about writing. But you inspire me: For both stories and novels, I do so much research, and contemplate scenes, phrases, metaphors etc. as I do, that by the time I start I’m writing in a white heat. Then comes round #2 and I inevitably have to rewrite the entire beginning. So I would definitely say I do not like beginnings! Endings are the best, for me. THERE- I wrote about writing. Thanks, Audrey!

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    • Oh dear, I think I am typecasting myself as a “writer’s writer.” Well, I suppose there are worse things do be :-).

      I love that you start in a white heat. I think I enjoy the middles most, when I have some idea of where I’m going but haven’t yet cut off all future possibilities.

      Can’t wait to read your next work!

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  4. As always, thought-provoking. I ask myself these questions as I struggle with why and how I write. Thanks for putting words on the paper so well and clarifying the issues.

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  5. I’m having trouble focusing these days. The fate of the world is too uncertain, I think, the changes coming too fast. But for me writing is a process, like a journey. I start with a mental map that is my basic story, but I never know exactly how the journey will unfold. For the most part, I enjoy it along the way. It’s not so much a love-hate thing. I hit snags, sure, but if I wait, something generally comes to me that sets me moving again.

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    • Oh, man, the uncertainty. I have been finding refuge in words, but if I think too hard, I do become paralyzed. It sounds as if you have tremendous commitment to the process. That’s what’s needed for the long haul.

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  6. Truth be told, I feel a little overwhelmed when I start a new project. There’s so much to get out of my head and onto the paper, and so much I need to research. Makes my head spin. But it’s also exciting. Best of luck with your new projects!

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