I really never have any idea what I am going to write about. I am often asked how I write a book. I always answer: “I don’t! The books write me!” And it’s true! I may have an idea, even a vision, about something that seems intriguing, but as soon as I start to put it down on paper (as it were), there is a curious mechanism that takes over. I often find myself transported, transformed even, as ideas, phrases, sentences, dialogue, whole characters sometimes, materialize without any conscious design on my part. For me it is a matter of opening up and surrendering to this greater energy that wants to be heard, and is using me as a kind of switchboard. I have always been a writer (age 8), and always thought that I would have great, even portentous, things to say one day, great adventures, crazy stories, funny anecdotes. And all of that is, in part, true. Anais Nin once said “We are not writers. We are rewriter.” I so thoroughly agree with her because it is in the rewriting, especially that second draft for me, that the true depth and shape of the piece really comes together.
For example, right now I am on page 78 of a 454 page manuscript. I was in such a fever when I wrote the first draft that I did not make any chapter, simply small separators when I was switching topics. It took me an inordinately long time to get this piece on track because I had written a number of flashback scenes first, and just could not get it off the ground properly until my intuition signaled me to simply make it chronological! Voila! Off and running!
I’m often reminded of something Henry Miller once said (Tropic of Cancer, 1934/1961): “What need have I for money? I am a writing machine. The last screw has been added. The thing flows. Between me and the machine there is no estrangement. I am the machine.”