“Let us go forth, the tellers of tales, and seize whatever prey the heart long for, and have no fear. Everything exists, everything is true, and the earth is only a little dust under our feet.” – W.B. Yeats, “The Celtic Twilight”
I’ve been spending every spare minute I can grab from my busy days editing my manuscript. The more I learn about publishing and agents and query letters, the more excited and nervous I get about the inevitable day – which is sooner rather than later – that I start pitching my story.
Except, my story is currently 156,000 words long, give or take a few hundred. That’s down approximately 2,000 words from where I started. Frankly, this manuscript may be more of a series… I had a lot of story to tell, you see. I do love peoples’ stories. Speaking from experience, if you spend enough time with your fictional characters, they do become real, at least to you.
Re-reading my words – words I wrote more than a year ago when it comes to the earliest chapters – has a strange effect on me. That’s the beauty of letting something sit for a while. When you come back to it with fresh eyes, you find the glaring mistakes. You find the parts that are missing and the parts that aren’t necessary to tell the story. You find things you hate. But, you also find turns of phrases you love, lines you read and think “I wrote that?”
As I work through this (hopefully) last round of edits, and start getting to the meat of these characters’ stories, I find myself pulled in. I know exactly what happens – I wrote it, after all – and yet, with some distance from it, I can’t stop reading and editing. The last two weeks have developed into a bit of a routine of early morning barre classes, full days at my “real” job, evening plans ranging from dinner to barre to Junior League meetings, and then, finally, time spent with my laptop open, devouring page after page, removing sections, correcting grammar and spelling errors, and falling in love with these characters all over again.
And then, I glance up, and Jimmy Fallon is going off, indicating that its well past midnight.
I wake up and do it all over again the next day.
Good things come to those who pray and hustle.
Any good writer spends a lot of time with words, but great writers spend time with words that aren’t theirs. They read constantly, devour books and essays, develop their skills as they learn what they like, what they don’t like. I’ve been reading a lot of Flannery O’Conner lately, along with re-reading the Harry Potter series. If you ever feel like questioning good versus evil and the nature of man, read O’Conner and Rowling at the same time.
O’Conner is a master storyteller. I’ve been studying her use of dialect and how she weaves in her faith. With Rowling, I remain as in awe of her ability to tangle together her seven books, to weave together so many details, to make insignificant lockets that won’t open and cabinets broken by poltergeist largely important in later books later. Their words are some of the words that fill my cup.
My copy of Gone With The Wind is old and tattered. I picked it up at a junk shop years ago and have loved it and read it so many times since. It contains some of my favorite lines ever written:
“Yes, life has a glitter now – of a sort. That’s what’s wrong with it. The old days had no glitter but they had a charm, a beauty, a slow-paced glamour.”
“They are kind of queer about music and books and scenery. Mother says it’s because their grandfather came from Virginia. She says Virginians set quite a store by such things.”
“For Ashley was born of a line of men who used their leisure for thinking, not doing, for spinning brightly colored dreams that had in them no touch of reality. He moved in an inner world that was more beautiful than Georgia and came back to reality with reluctance. He looked on people, and he neither liked nor disliked them. He looked on life and was neither disheartened nor saddened. He accepted the universe and his place in it for what they were and, shrugging, turned to his music and books and his better world.”
There’s also a cheeky line about northerners being much like southerners, but with poor manners and terrible accents that I adore.
It’s these words, the words of Margaret Mitchell, Flannery O’Conner, J.K. Rowling, William Faulkner, Mark Twain, Yeats, and countless others, that inspire me to write my own words, words that fill my cup in a different way, inspire me in a different way than the words of others.
Words are a powerful thing. They evade you and then they find you. They start wars and end them. Words written by our founding fathers gave us our freedom. Words penned in cafes around the world gave us our favorite books, songs, and poems.
We treat words differently, now. We speak in shorthand, sending a simple ‘u’ rather than taking the time to tap out just two more letters. Replies of just emojis are considered acceptable. In fact, an emoji has been chosen as Oxford’s Word of the Year.
I still like the “old” use of words. I like reading them from physical books and listening to them on vinyl. I like putting a pen to paper. I’ll hold on to that, those words that fill my cup. And hopefully, someday, words I write will fill someone else’s cup.
What words fill your cup?