One of the finest glories of moving is finding new libraries, and within them, new books. I’m doing this now. The nearest library to me just didn’t “speak” to me. It wasn’t bad, or ugly, or anything else that I could put my finger on, exactly. Nevertheless, it didn’t feel like home. The shelves weren’t stocked with enough of my kind of books (SF/F, of course, but also travel, and language, and reference, and…you get the idea).
Another library, where I’d gone for a writers’ group meeting, seemed nice enough, but still a bit…bland. Sterile. And definitely too far away to be an everyday kind of place.
Yesterday evening hubby and I ventured to another library, a different system in the same county as our local library. This library whispered seduction before I even walked through the door; artwork in the form of a sculpture guarded the steps, showing a seated male African lion with a young boy leaning on its flank, engrossed in a book. It was titled “Wild Imagination.” Yes, I thought. That’s it, exactly.
Still, I didn’t dare hope too much. Until I went inside and saw the stacks. Oh, the reference! I could live there. So much to learn, to read, to osmotically assimilate by running hands over pages and pages of glorious information! And the fiction was lovely and wild. With some trepidation I headed toward the Nonfiction; specifically, to 808’s. Dewey fans will recognize that as Literature, home of writing how-to’s. I needed to see how they stacked this area, what gems might be hidden there. And surprise me it did. There on the shelf was a book I’d heard referred to often, but had never read. It’s here beside me now: Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity by Ray Bradbury, copyrighted 1989.
Let me tell you, if you haven’t read this little gem, run right out and do so. I’ve been struggling a bit with feeding my muse, with feeling creative. I know, I know–moving has thrown me for a bit of a loop, and I’ll overcome this. But still.
You’ll know the feeling if you’re a writer. It’s a combination of impostor syndrome and writer’s block and fear that you’ve burned out your entire arsenal of ‘good’ ideas, leaving you only a dried-up second-rate hack with nothing to say before you’ve even said anything. (sigh) I’ve only read Bradbury’s first two essays, but already my creative fires are burning bright, eagerly licking at my fingers, urging them “Type faster, darn it! I’ve got things to say.”
I’ve been focussing so much on improving my craft that I’d almost forgotten the pure joy writing can bring. I was letting my internal editor dampen my enthusiasm, and pre-editing my ideas into dull gray ash. Ugh. No wonder I was having a hard time getting enthused. Ideas are fire, bright and alluring. The best ones can burn the writer. Some stories burn out of control, never to see publication. But to me, a story going down in flames is far better than one that never left the safety net. That ‘boring’ story is never going to get published either, and is far less fun to write.
Another balancing act, then–the fire of creativity balanced by the dispassionate editor, carving ‘story’ out of dancing chaos. Sounds like fun, no?