Wednesday, May 19, 2010

When The Manuscript Writes Itself

I've read two books, taken notes, and retrieved reams of archived newspaper articles out of the printer. I've thumbed through books of old photographs, scholarly tomes that describe life in past times, sucked up information and crammed my head full of trivia.

My mind is completely wrapped around a fragment of the past that is the setting for a manuscript I'd been meaning to write for a couple of years, until I finally sat down and got started.

It's almost all I can think about.

I pass a building and say to myself that this structure was brand new when the characters walked past on their way to that building over there. The streets are hazy with automobile exhaust today but I can envision those same roads clogged with horses and wagons and cable cars. I can smell unwashed bodies, horse piss and the rank miasma of a polluted river.

The first few pages that I wrote didn't come easy. It took some struggle to get into the story, to see where the characters were going.

Suddenly, the manuscript is writing itself. The characters tug at my brain, urge my fingers to type faster so that their tale can be told.

The problem is, I can't seem to focus thoroughly on my job. Every now and then I'll think of what to put in the upcoming chapter, which character will take center stage for the next few pages. An insignificant one leaps out, to be presented in a more important light in the closing chapter.

The dilemmas of the main actors play out in my head constantly when I should be focused on the phone call or the estimate or the pile in the inbox that keeps on growing because I don't have my mind on work.

Hopelessly stuck in the past, following along behind these imaginary beings who once did exist. I know what they looked like in grainy photographs and newspaper engravings. In my imagination, I bring them back to life and occupy their heads, when I should be concentrating on what's going on in front of me at work.

Either I'll finish the rough draft in record time, or I'll have to exercise a bit of discipline and not let them out of the darker recesses of my brain as often as I do now. There's no money in writing, you see, and an author can't be writing for long if the mortgage goes unpaid.

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