The extremely organized system I use to gather my thoughts.
“I have made up thousands of stories; I have filled innumerable notebooks with phrases to be used when I have found the true story, the one story to which all these phrases refer. But I have never yet found that story. And I begin to ask, Are there stories?” – The Waves Virginia Woolf
Yes! I love starting off a piece of writing with a dramatic quotation. I wish I could start off everything I write this way. Don’t you feel like I’m about to say something really profound now? Don’t you feel like the rest of my writing should somehow follow through on the deep sentiments introduced by this most beautiful and amazing of all quotations?
Well, sorry, it’s not. (Well, not much anyway.) I’m just going to do what a lot of other amateur blog authors do and talk about myself.
Lets get to that shall we…
So okay, the quote above is not completely unrelated, since this little post is about my phrases and stories (and/or the collective lack there of). You see, I do this thing where while I’m at work, or in the car, at home, or anywhere really I’ll write down random notes to myself about books, authors that sound interesting, phrases I found particularly fun, ideas for stories I’ll never actually write, etc. etc. etc. You get the idea.
Most of the time, I never use these notes in any constructive way (I currently have three notebooks filled with this stuff) so I thought I’d at least use them as creative fodder for blog posts. You know, to fill the time until I find my one true story to which all these notes refer–whatever that story may be. (With my luck it’s some lame chick lit novel or I dunno, a self-help book, or, worse than all that–maybe there IS no story at all in which case I will die a terribly lonely unnotable death.)
But until that day, I’ll console myself with the notes thing.
So here they are. Above you will see a photo of this week’s accumulated notes. Below you will see (and hopefully enjoy) their actual content…
My friend Laurie gave me Newsweek’s list of Fifty Books for Our Times at work this week so most of my book selections come from there.
- A Good Man is Hard to Find, Flannery O’Connor
- The Bear, William Faulkner
- Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie
- The Rehearsal, Elenor Catton
- The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery
I saved The Elegance of the Hedgehog for last because it’s one of those books I’ve probably picked up at the bookstore about four or five times now but I’ve never bought it. (For whatever reason whenever I read the back jacket it just hasn’t sounded appealing enough to buy.)
But all that’s in the past. Because all this week, I kept seeing and hearing about this book everywhere–and by everywhere I mean in the real world, in the printed world, and on the internet (the web wide world?).
Places I saw this book:
- On a table at the Bookshop Santa Cruz
- In the hands of a woman at Sea Cliff State Beach. (I was running by and she was holding it, though not reading.)
- Powell’s Book’s (online) bestseller list
- In the Fifty Books of Our Time list given to me by Laurie
- And I can’t remember where else but probably some review online or something.
So yes, I’m aware that seeing a bestselling novel around is not really all that weird. Especially if you tend to read a lot about books and frequent a lot of bookstores. But still… don’t you think it’s just a little weird? I mean, especially the beach one?
The last time this happened to me with a book it was The History of Love, by Nicole Krauss. I kept picking it up at the bookstore but I never actually took it home until Camille, another friend, actually photocopied a passage from it she thought I might like and gave it to me at work. And of course I loved it, because Camille knows my silly heart well, and I went out and bought it the next day. I think I read The History of Love in two mad nights where I ignored all my friends and social plans (or lack there of haha) to stay in and lose myself in other people’s sad beautiful lives. Ha, and now it’s one of my favorites.
I think it’s rather fitting the way I found the book though. I mean, it’s almost its own love story. Kind of like the ‘meet cute’ stories people tell about how they first met… “I kept seeing him around town but never really went to talk to him until one day a friend introduced us at a party…” It was like the book and I were meant to be. And as sad as it may be that I feel this way about books (the same way that I feel about people) I also secretly think it’s really cool.
Because you know what this means?! It means that maybe my most favorite of all books–my one, true, and only book–is right under my nose and I don’t even know it yet! It could be on my bookshelf right now. It could be sitting on my desk. Or, ooooh, maybe it could be The Elegance of the Hedgehog.
I dunno, I like the idea that there may be stories out there waiting for us to find them. That there is some kind of weird book destiny that gives us the exact book we need to read at the exact moment we need to read it. Just like how we can meet the exact people we need to meet at exactly the right time.
And wow, it kind of ties in to the introductory quote huh? Because maybe there are stories waiting for us to write them as well. Maybe there are stories out there just just waiting to be told. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Or, in this week’s case, poets.
Words or Phrases Found
- “Poets are different from other people in that they remain inconsolable.”
- “noetic and ineffable” and “epistemological profundity”
(I thought these were just too silly. I love knowing that there are people in the world who actually talk this way.)
- “And if I am singing, then loneliness has lost its shape, and this quiet is only quiet.”
- “Children feel your pain.”
As in weird ideas for stories I will never write…
I write marketing copy for a living and every single time I turn something in for review I have to fight the urge to preface it with a long description of all the things I think are weak, the parts I don’t like, and the content I think could be tweaked to make it better. I dunno, it’s this weird desire I have not too look like an idiot. Some insecure writer part of me that wants to let people know, “Ya, I know this sucks, I’m not stupid, but I don’t know how to make this not suck so any suggestions you have would be great.”
Most of the time it’s not even bad, it’s actually pretty good. But there are always a few things I’m unsure about.
So I thought a fun story might be the notes someone adds to the beginning of a story or manuscript before turning it in. I could indulge in my own blatant insecurities while, hopefully, making people laugh. This is pretty much the bulk of the idea. I suppose I should have a character who I’ll make even crazier then me. And, naturally, they will be incredibly desperate.
I don’t know why but I really enjoy writing about desperate people. I should probably not think about that too much.
What Happens to Pictures After They Burn
I was reading about a house fire earlier this week and I got to thinking about how what most people really regret losing is their photographs. How do you console these people? How do you confront the loss of these simple material things that so easily become more than simple material things? After all a photograph is an odd thing — it’s a piece of art and yet, like many pieces of art, it’s also sort of a piece of yourself. And maybe it’s just a memory, a memento. So how do you deal with the loss of such things?
You write a story about it I guess. Ha, but this is my answer to many of life’s questions — one of those non-answer answers. Kind of like how supercalifragilisticexpialodocious is what you say when you can’t think of anything to say.
But the story idea is this — while looking over the remains of her lost home a mother consoles her child’s (and in the process also her own) worries about what happens to pictures after they burn. She will, of course, do this by lying and telling outrageous stories.
Some of the things she will tell her worried child about the pictures and what happens to them:
- One picture will turn into dust, get breathed in by a sleeping child, and become a dream.
- Another picture will become a black square a woman will find while walking home. The woman will always wonder what that black square was a picture of and in this way the picture will become a mystery.
- Yet another picture will turn into ashes which will float away in the wind, get stuck in a man’s eye at a particularly opportune moment, and become the catalyst for his tears–In this way the picture will become a release.
This story will, of course, be incredibly bittersweet like most stories that are built on beautiful lies.
So okay, I didn’t actually “find” an ending so I’m just making this one up instead. Though the idea of a found ending does sound kind of creepy and fun.
Either way, hopefully these notes will one day turn into those great big cosmic stories of destiny (or will at least contribute to them somehow) but until then they can just chill here.
Hm… like a purgatory of sorts. I like that for some reason. (Though maybe it’s just because I like all the hidden meanings I create for myself.)
Then again, maybe it’s that I can relate. Maybe it’s because I’m always waiting for something too.