Obliterating the Mountains While the Sun is Above Us

Yesterday I made the decision that I would NOT begin editing my next project until Monday. This gives me the entire weekend to indulge in some ‘me’ time.  To this end, I set off for Little Italy after some good long morning tinkering, and found myself a cafe to ‘be’ in.

There’s a book I’ve been meaning to get to, written by my friend Melanie Schnell called While the Sun is Above Us.  Mel’s been to Sudan twice to see for herself what horrors are there.  She lived in a mud hut with the Dinka people, was chased by bad men with AK 47’s, made beautiful connections with people she met, and came home both times broken, both physically and emotionally.  It took her many years to write this book, based on her experiences there.  I am proud of her.

Mel and I used to do diner and a movie about once a month.  I’d pay for the meal and she’d take care of the tickets.  She was always in charge of picking the movie – usually something obscure and critically acclaimed.  Away From Her, and Lars and the Real Girl stand out.  So does the last movie we ever saw together, Twilight.  I remember the embarrassed look on her face and an apology after scene two.

So I’m sitting at the bar reading her book, not really keen to learn more about the subject matter, but unable to stop turning pages.  After 33 of ’em, I put the book down.  My mind was full.  Needed to let the words percolate deeper into me.  It was a satisfying experience.  I intend to pick the book up again today.

It also moved me to do something that I hadn’t done since last October.  I opened my own novel – my work in progress – and found about a thousand words for it that hadn’t been there before.  The blockage that I had run into – that I couldn’t seem to find a way past – had simply crumbled as I piled on the words.  Those words came so fast and furious, I could barely keep up with my fingertips as they tapped the keyboard.

That blockage was a mountain to climb.  I remember staring at it with my curser blinking for hour after hour.  Frustration.  Disappointment.  Every time I opened the file, I felt its assault upon my creativity.  I had a story to tell, and I was muted by my inability to see past it.  For some reason, yesterday was different.

I suspect Mel’s book had something to do with it.  My long drive with Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance certainly had an influence as well.  Long meditative gazings upon the trains rolling past my window every morning also seem help.  Mostly though, I just decided to NOT climb the mountain.  I knew where other parts of my story were going and I decided to jump forward – past the mountain – and pick up there.

I wrote a scene with two characters, gave ’em strong objectives, put obstacles in their way, then stood back to see what happened.  Those two characters took over at this point.  Worked things out for themselves, then took the story backwards in time – back to the blockage.  It only took a couple sentences to connect their scene back to where I left off previously.  Two sentences!  It seems that mountain wasn’t really a mountain at all.

Today has much promise.  There’s another scene to write, and Mel’s pages to turn.

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