A wonderful thing happened to me in Egypt. I'd been struggling with my rough draft and a brain that had too much external noise to find the silence where it could meet my characters. I was feeling insecure with my writing. It was so shallow. I was a poser. I would never get under the skin of this novel to see the truth in anything.
Despite this, I decided I would read the first bit of the manuscript at the public reading at the end of the residency. It was not ready for public consumption, really, but I needed to give them something of the work they had paid for me to have the opportunity to write. So I printed it out on paper. The book is about a married woman who has a one night stand with a much younger man. She immediately regrets what she has done, more so because he will not leave her alone. He stalks her. At the beginning of the book, the place I chose to read, he has left a blue scarf at her gate, a present for her. The scarf is caught up in the hedge, blowing in the dry winter air.
When I wrote this I only wrote this for the image. I wanted the reader to feel the shock of this cerulean scarf in the browns of a winter landscape. Did her husband see it as he left for work? Was her secret out? It was a shallow surface kind of image. Writing I thought I'd been doing. That I'd been fighting with.
Then I printed it out and practiced for the reading and suddenly there was something else. the whole passage was a metaphor, she was caught. I didn't do this consciously. I let my brain free. I was writing without a net. I typed the words but I was not in complete control of them. I was recently helping another writer with her story. She's an established editor and I advised her to be more reckless, try not to control things. A hard task for an editor. It reminded me of this incident in Egypt.
What we've really written, what we meant, can't be seen straight away. We have no idea what we've done. It needs a bit of time and distance for us to discover exactly what happened when we recklessly let our brains do as they pleased.
So get rid of that net, and maybe the wire too. Time to float out there on air and see where it take us, it's usually quite wonderful.