There is a nervous buzz of energy and at the same time there is an excited, eager energy waiting to see what I decide. Don’t stop. Don’t look at the words on the page. Let them out of their own accord. Look away. Tap away. Type it out.
I don’t know why there is hesitation at taking a short story writing course in the Fall. I think there will be room, but I’m not sure. I won’t be sure until my registration date. I’m surprised I’m still in the system, since it’s been a while since I’ve taken a course. I’ve taken the creative writing course and that included a good amount of short story writing. It seems the teacher thought I was best on my darker stories, but that was a different time. I don’t find the short story to be a natural container for me. It is a challenge and that may be why I would like to take this course.
I recently pulled one of my old journals. Just as I often leave books unread, it seems I’ve also left a few journals unwritten in with many blank pages. In this journal from 2002 I found a few entries where I had written my reactions to books that I was reading. The one that made me go looking for the book in my shelves is Milan Kundera’s The Art of the Novel. I read my notes and then I tried to find it on my shelves, but it looks like I gave it up during my move. In the process of searching for this book, I found Ayn Rand’s The Art of Fiction: A Guide for Writers and Readers. It’s a collection of her lectures as is Kundera’s. I pulled that book from my shelf and I began reading. I had never finished it, but remember that it got my head spinning and it had the same affect this time. I took my pencil in hand and underlined passages that especially spoke to me or that I wanted to come back to later. I adore her absolute confidence as a writer: “In regard to precision of language, I think myself am the best writer today” (pg. 10). She made this statement sometime in 1958.
While searching the library catalog for Kundera’s The Art of the Novel, I came across Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity. I recognized it. I had it in my possession at some point—again another unfinished book. I wasn’t ready for it at the time is the only explanation I can think of. I put a hold on it, so that I could check it out of the library. I then placed an order through Amazon for Kundera’s book. The moment I started reading Bradbury’s book of essays, I was in love instantly with his writing and how he expressed himself. I am almost done and am savoring every single word, not wanting to reach the end. Besides reading fiction, I absolutely love reading writers sharing their process. I’m glad that I have rediscovered Bradbury. Since getting this book of his essays, I have checked out a couple of his short story collections and read a few of his short stories and plan to read more. He is an amazing storyteller and his imagination and inspiration seems never ending. I have since also picked up a copy of Fahrenheit 451 because I never did read it.
What’s interesting to me is that it took the authors themselves, to discuss their own works, to bring me to their fiction. With Milan Kundera, I had read his fiction first. With Rand and Bradbury, it was their non-fiction that I read first. And it was Rand’s own words that finally convinced me that I needed to read Atlas Shrugged and that I would not regret it. I tried to read it a long time ago. I was daunted by it’s massiveness and I wasn’t able to get into the story right away. I downloaded it to my Kindle last week and I started reading it slowly, taking in her precision of language. I was able to enter the story with more interest partially because my grandfather worked on the railroads. I had to find an in. My interest was also galvanized when she said, “A sentence in Atlas Shrugged that is applicable to all rational people, but particularly to writers, is the one where I say that Dagny ‘regarded language as a tool of honor, always to be used as if one were under oath—an oath of allegiance to reality.’ In regard to words, this should be the motto of every writer” (pg. 10). She sealed it for me and my decision was made that I would read Atlas Shrugged when she said, “For instance, the theme of Atlas Shrugged is ‘the importance of reason’—a wide abstraction…Every chapter and paragraph of Atlas Shrugged is set up on the same principle: What abstraction do I want to convey—and what concretes will convey it?” (Pg. 13). I am fully absorbed this time while reading Atlas Shrugged and I will allow myself at least three month’s to finish it while still trying to read other books. I seem to do best when I have too many books to choose from. I cannot stick with one book at a time.
I’m still thinking about Rand’s words and that’s one of the aspects of reading that I hunger for. Sometimes I want to read for pure enjoyment, but mostly I want to read a piece of fiction that will push my mind—that will make me think and plant seeds that I add to my conscious and subconscious garden and that will blend with other seeds along the way, storing these seeds in my mind for later use—for continued connections and patterns.
This morning I drew one Tarot card for guidance for the day and also with regard to the short story writing course that I want to take—the hesitation. I pulled a trump card: The Universe. The card helped me come to the page. I feel grateful that my soul gravitated to this card and not seeing any of the cards while I chose with cards face down and my eyes closed, taking my hand and going back and forth until I felt ready. The Universe: The principal of totality, individuation/wholeness.
I do feel at one with the Universe, and I am grateful for that. And I am grateful for my inner guidance, for writing, for reading, for love—and even for sadness, for I can’t feel without it—grateful for being able to feel and express.