Starting a new book is like putting one foot on the edge of a hanging bridge, not knowing what’s on the other side, or even if the other end is attached.
I’m starting to write a new book now, a novel about a family, The Blues; I think that will be the title. Everything is ahead. I hardly know them yet; they can morph and change a thousand times till something, I don’t know what, tells me “That’s who they are. I know them. I can count on them.” Of course I can’t. As the writing and the thinking goes on they can still defy me and change, become other people, do what I won’t allow them to do, peter out and die…anything. But the moment my figurative foot is on the imaginary bridge, the book is in motion, the journey has begun.
The first words: “Everybody chooses the wrong person. Sometimes it works out.” (Or should it be “everyone? Or should it be “the wrong partner?” Or should it be....?)
I will be wandering now in strange territory, together, maybe, with the characters, or maybe they will be strangers, unknown to me, to be discovered, or discarded, or changed, given bigger roles or smaller, loved, killed.
What power I have over them. And they over me.
When I first start I have a vague notion of where I want to go -- but how to get there? Sometimes I think, “I can do this in a year.” Sometimes it is never, ever done; the end of the bridge is darkness; I lose my way.
And then there’s the voice – the voice of the book itself, which is my voice, and yet not. If it comes in a kind of rhythym the book begins to write itself; I am the pen, the fingers. And if there’s no voice – drudgery, hours and days of sitting mindless, waiting, “alone on a wide, wide sea.” Nothing matters. Stupid daily life takes over. Maybe the journey will start again. Maybe never.
This minute, writing this right now, I feel ready to start, to type the opening words: “Everyone (yes, everyone) chooses the wrong person....” I put my foot on the hanging bridge, and I’m afraid, yet giggly, giddy with excitement. The bridge quivers a little; maybe it’s not anchored; maybe I’ll fall.
But maybe it will be the smoothest, most glorious time I ever had, maybe it will be wonderful, hungrily read, understood, appreciated, loved....
The bridge seems strong, as though it was made of steel. There’s sun on the other side. Avanti! Let’s go! It’s beginning!