- Number 6 in a series of blog posts focusing on early morning impressions that are lost in the haste of alarm clocks, schedules, and daily routines.
The whisper of an idea. An intriguing scene from a story you’ve never read or heard about. The faint outline of a dream you want to remember.
It’s the playground of artists, writers, poets, and dreamers.
In fact, Pulitzer prize-winning author Robert Olen Butler wrote a wonderful book called From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction. He’s published numerous novels, short story collections, and so on, but admits that before he wrote his first published novel, The Alleys of Eden, there were frustrating years of effort — period. As he puts it, “…I wrote literally a million words of absolute dreck. Five god-awful novels, forty dreadful short stories, and a dozen truly terrible full-length plays.”
Butler believes a fiction writer must think less and write from the world of dreams. That uncensored arena that moves us beyond the confines of habitual thoughts and ideas.
I suspect he’s right.
Whenever I write fiction or poetry or anything really … I have to get in touch with that part of myself that leaps well beyond a sensible, logical outline. That is willing to let go of assumptions or expectations. And I have to let the artist within dabble with many colors, play with awareness via sensory cues, eventually creating something my conscious mind could never have envisioned.
“Only in this way, by shaping and ordering experience into an art object, is the artist able to express her deep intuition of order.” ~ Robert Olen Butler
Perhaps, this is why I am captivated by First Thoughts — by whatever edges into my morning awareness with gentle clarity. It feels pure somehow, like new snow drifting toward earth with a certain brightness protecting each flake. So stay receptive and welcoming as dawn arrives. Be alert to “first thoughts,” knowing your subconscious may offer something surprising or noteworthy.
Out beyond the ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
This morning I’m reminded of the fiction projects I haven’t worked on lately. A couple of my characters drift into my awareness as if seeking my attention once more. As if wondering what happens next in the story they carry on their shoulders. Winter is coming, I muse, so maybe I will be drawn to the dream world once more. Do some dream writing. It sounds like the perfect way to spend a few months, when sleep becomes deeper, longer, and part of a long winter’s nap.
Spring, summer, and fall fill us with hope; winter alone
reminds us of the human condition.
~ Mignon McLaughlin
Robert Olen Butler also refers to the human condition, reminding readers and writing students that works of fiction that endure … “reflect and articulate the deepest truth about the human condition.”
What examples come to mind?
When it comes to the classics, I’m a big fan of Steinbeck and Fitzgerald. Kafka and Tolstoy were remarkable writers. And who could forget Dickens or Twain?
Willa Cather was also a wonderful writer.
And there are many contemporary novelists who deserve our attention. Robert Olen Butler, for instance. In 1993, he won the Pulitzer for A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain.
Before the snow flies, while touches of color still cloak a few trees, I may dig out a short story to work on. Maybe even one of the novels I wrote a few years ago. Novels that need a great deal of work. They were merely first drafts, all 5 of them, but something is bringing them back into my awareness.
As someone once said, the words won’t have changed, but the author will have changed. Life experience definitely deepens our understanding of the human condition.
What experiences have you had this past year that gave you insight into the human condition? How did they deepen your understanding of yourself and others?
What hints of color are leading you in the direction
of spiritual and artistic growth?
What early-morning insights linger in your awareness?
Was it only by dreaming or writing that I
could find out what I thought?
~ Joan Didion