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November 2nd, 2012


The Goddess Kali at the Computer

Yesterday I had lunch with a friend who told me about drawing day after day until at last the girl under her hands felt like the one who’s been in her head. She’s now happily progressing through a dummy for a picture book. This made me think of hands rubbing over and over, trying to start a fire. It made me think of me the last two weeks, hunkering down with an idea both murky and compelling. I started scenes, but they were still warm on the page when I recognized they didn’t have the spark that would tell me, Yes, that’s mine. I’m a believer in storing up ideas so I don’t have to face too many blank pages, but the notes I’d put under labels with a variety of attempts at titles didn’t seem like ones that would grip me for the year or so it may take me to fulfill them.

Starting a new project seems more full of stops than starts, whether or not that’s mathematically possible.  I recently celebrated finishing a major project, but this was quickly followed by an uncomfortable hole, which felt drafty no matter how much I tried to call it freeing. I’ve got my main character, sort of, a theme, and a pale vision of a rickety plot, and have spent mornings dreaming up sisters, brothers, and friends who I kill off by the afternoon. Dads and a magical bird come and go.

Dreaming up ideas means you have to be willing to let many go. One of the students in my writing for children class is an illustrator, and when I recently brought in colored pencils, she asked where was the eraser. Sorry, I said. She told me she always drew with an eraser in her other hand, which opened and closed around nothing. She managed, because she’s flexible and kind. This reminds me of how I don’t even think of how close the delete button is to my pinky. It reminds me of Kali, the Hindu goddess of destruction and creation, who makes space for the new by clearing out the old.

Then three days ago I had an idea that still makes my eyes shine. I told Peter, around four in the afternoon, about an hour before I had to leave the house, that I was going to my writing room to write, not delete. And I did. Yesterday I might have let more words stay than I struck out. I don’t know what I’ll get today, but I do know that I have to write a lot of trite, flat, wishy-washy, just plain bad scenes before a plot snares or sparkles. So I’ll continue with my Kali files, the scenes that no one but me will likely ever see. And I let one of my favorite goddesses rant, so she will be my friend.