I wonder how much the physical circumstances of writing affect my thoughts. The last post, about ‘Flow’, I wrote in an apartment on the 14th floor of a condo building in downtown Winnipeg, as the traffic streamed into the city and construction workers on yet another new building across the street picked their way around in a gusty wind beneath a massive crane. I felt energized and quick, with movement all around me.
Today, now, I’m sitting in a silent space watching light soft snow falling into the Salmon River as it slides past a few metres from my window, on its way to Grand Lake, New Brunswick. Fat, fluffy flakes drift gently down, the river’s movement is almost imperceptible, and my mind has slowed down too. Maybe it needed to: the past three weeks have been full on. And for the first time in three weeks I’ve had space in my head for the book that had pre-occupied me for weeks before I started this trip, the one I’m writing, the first one of a new series.
Walking in the snow this morning I had a clear vision of one of the characters in my head, and was also convinced that this was a different image than the one that found its way into the first draft of Chapter 1 written over a month ago. Lots to change I thought. But then I re-read the draft, and there it was, identical to my current image. Curiously reassuring: the complexity I wanted to see was already there. Then I went to the character study of this person that I’d written and filed many months ago, and all the prior work and thinking suddenly filled my head as if they’d never been away. Over the next few days, exploring the Bay of Fundy before I finally head home, I have to keep the thoughts simmering gently. If it carries on snowing like this, I might even make a virtue of confinement and write some more. It’s a relief to get back to the real writing after so long away from it. The snow is reminding of a wonderful book by David Guterson called ‘Snow Falling on Cedars’. I hope I can achieve the sense of place and atmosphere as well as he did.
On the verge of downloading Guterson’s book and re-reading it, I hesitate. ‘Be careful what you read during your writing project,’ was advice offered on a writing course. ‘Beware of being influenced by someone else’s style and losing your own voice.’ Could that happen, really? Even if it did, I couldn’t stop reading while my writing is underway. And I choose books within the same genre as my own, using my inner critic to deconstruct them and inspire to do as well, or better, myself.