Sunday, March 1, 2015

A Novel Experience

During a radio interview last spring, I was asked whether I planned to write a fourth novel. At the time Organic Screenwriting: Writing for Film, Naturally had only just come out and the idea of taking on any new book project was far from my mind. "Sure, if inspiration strikes," I replied aloud, adding under my breath, "some distant time in the future."

Soon after, though, I found myself in the midst of a series of health scares, and one of the questions I had to ask myself was this: "If I am going to die sooner rather than later, what is it I want to make sure I do and/or experience before I go?" To my surprise, the first answer that bubbled up from deep within was "write another novel."

Still, I was in the midst of preparing for a trip to Los Angeles. Now was not the time to start a novel. I would think about it when I got back.

As usual, my Muse had other plans: "The time for a new novel is now," it insisted "or, at least, next week. Start it when you get to L.A."

As crazy as that sounded – not least because I had no idea what this next novel was to be about – I did just that. One evening, after dropping my daughter off at her mom's, I parked myself at a Santa Monica Starbucks (where else!?) and began to write.

Eight months passed. The health concerns that had so concerned me dissolved and my focus turned to a different book, Birthing Your Book...Even If You Don't Know What It's About, and then to a related "rebranding" of myself as The Birthing Your Book Guru.

Little did I know that this guru's most challenging client was to be himself!

My first hint of that came a few weeks ago when I was back in Los Angeles – this time to sign books at the Conscious Life Expo. Although I was nearly 10,000 words into a different book at the time (a new memoir ironically titled All That Matters Is That I'm Writing), it was my "Starbucks novel" that claimed my attention during an odd encounter at the Expo.

The curly haired man with dark, deeply set eyes who walked up to my table never gave me his name, but something about his presence immediately demanded my attention. He ignored my greeting as he studied my display of books. Then with a gaze of almost alarming intensity, he turned his attention to me.

"What's your rising sign?" he asked with no preamble.

"Virgo," I replied.

"When do you normally write?"

If you follow my work, you know that there is little that's "normal" about my work habits. One draft or book might write itself more easily in the morning, another in the afternoon, yet another late at night. That's what I told him.

"You need to be writing two hours before dawn," he proclaimed, backing it up with an astrological explanation that eluded me.

"Oh. Yeah. Okay," I said aloud. Not going to happen, I said to myself. I'm barely functional two hours after dawn, let alone two hours before. But when the next morning I awoke at 4:30, I decided to put the mystery man's theory to the test. I found the few pages of barely started novel on my laptop and picked up where I had left off.

I have been working on the novel ever since, though not before dawn.

It has not been easy.

Each of my 11 books has found fresh challenges to throw at me, and this new novel is no different. From its scope to its research needs to its semi-autobiographical nature, it tests me in every moment – emotionally as well as creatively. And it dares me to trust more fully and deeply than I have ever before dared – to trust myself, to trust my abilities and to trust a story about which I know little, except as it writes itself through me. The result? More resistance than I would care to admit to.

I was thinking about all this last night when a friend texted me: "I just felt called to pick up a copy of Acts of Surrender: A Writer's Memoir," he wrote. "I'm already reading it and loving every minute."

Suddenly I, too, felt an urge to open Acts of Surrender. And once I started, I couldn't stop – reading or sobbing.

Fifty pages later, I forced myself to put the book down; it was late and I could barely keep my eyes open.

What I realized, though, as I drifted off to sleep was that I had needed my own words and the example of my own life to remind me of who I am and what I’m about. I had needed them to get me past some of my resistance. I had needed them to get me to recommit to my writer self and to surrender to what can be the only thing of true importance in my life right now: this new novel.

Not for the first time in my life and probably not for the last, all that matters is that I'm writing.

Conscious Life Expo Photo:

1 comment:

Gloria K said...

Mark David, I enjoy your writing very much. It's truly important to remember who we are, where we come from, and where we're going. It's about fulfilling our soul's journey by serving in our physical journey. My spiritual teacher will be in LA in about a week. Love and blessings.