Monday, January 2, 2017

Dispatch #60: The Spiritual in The Writing Life

by Lupe Fernandez

The Contemplation
The contemplation of a autumnal leaf. Brown, crispy, damp. Hold it up to the sun and the dried capillaries that once pulsed solar kisses of electric fluid. I may need that detail to provide insight into a character, or merely to show off my skills.

The Why?
The why does a flying teen feels unworthy of love? Why does a jovial ten year old skeleton boy frighten the humans of his world? Why does a high school slacker post a humiliating viral video? Why does evil exist? It’s not enough to say, “The Devil Made Me Do It.” I have to know why. Causation. Motivations. Psychology. Emotional trauma. Behavioral conditioning.

The Calling
I write to tell stories. But what do I gain? Freshly printed pages. Words smell of hot toner ink. Edits scrawled in red pen. Years of rewrites. No money. No prestige. A pauper’s life. One among thousands who want to publish. Maybe I’m not good. I wasn’t born with a story in my head. I’m no literary prodigy. I thought about giving up. Of course, would I do instead? Questions ripen. My nose wrinkles at the goal like fruit left too long in a bowl.

I have colleagues who have their own stories, their own reasons for writing between the rush of children, the stomp of jobs and the heartbeat of time.

The Message
What do I want to say? I see a cumulus cloud, ringed by sun gold, dark underside, brilliant white trim, drifting across the sky. My cheeks are cold. White vapor spouts from chapped lips. I witness the Hand of God moving across the Earth.* How do I translate this sublime vision into a story?

The Comfort
When my stomach roils, when my mouth is dry, when the bottom of my stomach drops out through my feet, when I can’t nothing can be done, I sit at the computer and type. Alone. Just click, click of keystrokes to comfort me by. Nouns. Verbs. Conjunctions. Adjectives. Order out of chaos. There are rules to follow. What does the protagonist want? What obstacles confront the protagonist? What are the consequences to the protagonist if the goal isn’t achieved? How does the story end? More questions than answers. Plenty of thick and thin books to read for guidance. Schools of authors to fish for advice. Fellow acolytes to compare and contrast.

I am alone and in good company.

The Pilgrimage
Where do I go to pay homage to great writers, and not so great ones? I confess I've never visited the homes of Gabriel Marquez Garcia, Ray Bradbury or Eduardo Galeano. I did live in Los Angeles for thirty odd years. Plenty of renowned writers began their careers in that city. I currently reside in the San Francisco Bay Area, home to past, present and future authors of note.

Perhaps, my temples are books stores. Browsing the aisles, pulling a book off the shelf, thumbing through the crisp pages, smelling the paper. Or any public library. Rows upon rows of aisles, my fingers touching a rough spine, then the smooth plastic cover of the adjacent book. A musty scent. Central heating in winter. Cool air in the summer. I read author names known and unknown. Subjects popular and arcane.

The Doubt

*I also see condensed water vapor in motion due to differentials in air temperature and pressure, a confluence of cold and warm fronts influenced by the Coriolis Effect, and rejoice at the hard-earned knowledge gained by scientists of yore.


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