Sunday, December 28, 2014

Thoughts on writing my book

Do people really just sit down one day and decide to write a book? 

Surprisingly this question gives me a bit of a stomach ache. Because if that is true, if someone can just say, "Today I will write my novel," then I have no idea what I'm doing. The truth is that my story is a little different. It goes like this...

I was nineteen years old, sitting in a Community College level Art History class. I loved the teacher. I don't remember his name or what he looked like, but I remember that I adored him. And I don't remember anything else about the class except that we were expected to turn in a summary project of what we had learned. Could be a piece of art, a written report, or something more creative. And I, for some reason, decided to write a story. 

The image in my mind was a late Pleistocene cave, and people, normal people. Sure, by that time we had all read Clan of the Cave Bear, and knew Jean Auel's characters and settings well. Daryl Hannah will forever be imprinted in my mind as timid, lost and lonely little Ayla. I loved the story and Ayla. But Auel's characters were not real to me, the settings, not real. 

I began pouring over book after book after book (ahem, one could not just google things back then, oh my gosh, how did we survive?!). I became obsessed with cave drawings, paintings and etchings (still am). The idea that someone thousands of years ago took the time to find and mix paint, create a utensil to draw with (all which hints of a passed down tradition in and of itself), prepare a work surface, and create something with feeling and beauty. That someone so far removed from me would desire the very thing that I was trying to do; to capture a moment for future generations. 

It was then, that my head filled with voices--ancient voices--and memories. Weird? Believe me...I know.

So, I began that Community College level Art History project like this;

In the beginning…
The days are getting colder; the sky darker. The
Sapsikw’aɬá says a time is coming when we will no
longer see the great Aanyáy at all. I fear that day. I
was trying to remember the story of old when the
Great Spirit was so bright in the sky and the
unending coldness so far away but I can no longer
remember. I must focus on the task given to me now,
though my fear is great. Did my father’s father feel
the same fear as I? I find comfort in this thought. I
must continue on, for them…my people.

That is the beginning of my journey. 

So, in a sense, I really did just "sit down and write a book." Well, I sat down to write an "end-of-quarter-Art-History-learning-project," that turned into a passion and obsession, a head full of voices and memories, and a story about real people in a real place during a real time. 

And it's only taken me twenty two years to finish it. 

Maybe that is how all books start.
-H

PS. I got an A+ on the project. I still have it.

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