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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Fictive Fugue State

Last night I was fully into that fictive fugue state. I was working on my June story, and needed to get it done by midnight (which, by the way, I missed by a couple hours) and unfortunately, the story, Leftovers, wasn’t cooperating. I’d been piddling with it all month, a little at a time, thinking that the story would gel eventually, as most stories do.

On Sunday, I hit about 3,500 words,which was my intended goal – I’ve been working on writing shorter stories for the last couple years and have made some progress there. Anyway, at the end of my session, I felt like I was close, that the climactic scene was nigh, but I had absolutely no idea where the story was headed. So yesterday, when I started working, I figured all things would reveal themselves.

I began at lunch time, at a hamburger joint with wifi in the neighborhood called “Belly Burger”. Yeah, a burger joint with wifi – I do go to places that don’t have wifi on occasion, but not intentionally (: Anyway, the story was going pretty well there, starting to percolate as I wrote…but I still wasn’t in the moment yet.

Around dinner time I headed to The Castro, to suck up some of Philz Coffee. It’s a small cafe where each cup is brewed individually. I’d been there once, and I thought it was on 18th Street, but couldn’t find it so I ended up at Sweet Inspirations…where I had a latte. Anyway, that’s where it happened. Around 10:23 (anal-sounding, but I happened to look down at the clock as I slipped away), I fell into that glorious fugue state where the world around you ceases to exist and it’s all story, only story, and you’re as much a part of that fictive world as you are a part of this one. My writing became fast and furious and unkempt. I had swiveled the tablet into tablet mode, so I could handwrite my text rather than typing…I do that a lot, and I’m certain that the cognitive process of printing my text rather than typing it, and watching it magically translate to text on the screen, provides the best of both worlds for a writer. So I’m churning away, and I’m one step closer to an ending, but I still have no idea what that ending is…and so before I know it, it’s 11:30 p.m., the workers have put the chairs up on the tables all around me, and only one customer is left, chatting up the barrista. I didn’t see the customers leave, the workers put the chairs up, none of it. It was like I wasn’t even there. Like I’d been in the restroom for the last couple of hours and exited into this change. Anyway, I quickly packed up, thanked the barrista, and slipped out into the relative darkness of The Castro, heading for my bus stop.

When I arrived at the stop, my head was still buzzing. I’m was in that zone still…and the LCD sign said that the bus would be there in 8 minutes. So I paced, but it’s too much for me to deal with, so I sat down on the sidewalk, my back against the Walgreens, and pulled out the tablet and began writing again…I didn’t look up until the bus pulled up in front of me. I quickly mounted it, found a seat, and began some more. The bus jostled from stop to stop, making it a little hard to write, but I managed. When I look up from my writing, it’s was about 12:00 a.m., and the driver said, “Geary and Arguello”. I jumped up. I’d missed my stop! Okay, no problem. I’ll miss my connecting bus, but that’s okay. I could take the Geary bus. But I’m a little more than a mile from home, and the evening is nice, so I decide to walk. But I don’t make it more than a block before I come across Nazarios, a late night pizza slice place. I go inside, order a slice of pepperoni and a diet coke and snag one of the only tables in the small joint. There are a group of guys at the next table, and one of them is drunk and talking way, way too loud about way too little (he was proud because he’d called some woman a fat bitch, if I remember correctly – he could tell he’d hit a nerve, and that made him exuberant. No comment), but it didn’t bother me. I take my tablet out and set it up on the table…and immediately fall back in…the pizza arrives and I eat it in the space between key presses…I’m almost there. I can taste it, or maybe the it’s the pizza, no, it’s definitely sweeter than that. It’s the ending. Just around the corner now, but it’s still hasn’t revealed itself, so a few minutes after the pizza is done, I get up and leave…I’m thinking, maybe I should take the 24 bus as it would drop me off about five blocks from home, so I can get there and type, but decide, no, the walk will be nice, I can keep the mental game going and try to figure out what lies around that corner…and so I do, and I did, and within five minutes, I can see it, I can see that glorious ending right there, laid out before me. It had been there all along, waiting for me, just as my character had been obliviously and inexorably barreling toward it, so was I…so when I got home, around 1:30 a.m. this morning, I sat down and wrote through to the conclusion.

It’s still in first draft. It’s way too long (approaching 8K). It’s messy and contradictory in parts. I can’t say for sure, but I think it’s easily fixable. Because I let the story tell itself rather than forcing it. The very act of going in there, and just writing, generally works for me. The only forcing that needs to be done is the butt in chair kind…the story, if you let it, will reveal itself.

When I sit down to write a story, I begin with the meagerest germ of an idea or a concept. I give it a temporary title so that I have something to name the Word file and move on with the plan to come up with a suitable title once the story is done. I usaully HATE the title – it’s temporary though, and not intended for public consumption. But damned if, by the time I finish the story, the title hasn’t grown on me. And amazingly, unintentionally, subconsciously, I’ve written to the title. I swear I don’t know how this works, but fully 90 percent of the time, the title ends up being perfect for the story I didn’t know I was writing.

Fictive fugue states are trippy, man. I want some more.

6 comments:

synergy boy said...

Blippin' awesome sweet, dude! I was right there with you, feeling my pulse quicken as the story picked up pace, the need for the climax crawling up my spine and forcing me forward. What's around that corner? I'm afraid to find out! But I must. I must!

Hee-hee! Can't wait to mentally masticate!

calendula-witch said...

Wow. That's impressive. I've been sort of there only a very few rare times in my life...sweet. What a journey!

Clifford said...

Yeah, I usually go there a time or two per story, but this time was more prolonged, and nothing seemed to get in the way...I knew you guys would understand (:

Charles Gramlich said...

That's nice when you get into that flow and just keep rolling. I haven't had it happen in a while and you've just made me hungry for the experience. Gonna go write.

Wonder Man said...

I went through something like when I wrote my first book, so I feel you

Clifford said...

@ Charles: Did you make it?

@ Wonderman: Yeah, ain't it grand?

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This is me and one of my two cats. His name is Cougar, and he’s an F1 Chausie. A chausie is a new breed of cat under development. Chausies are the result of a cross between a domestic cat (in Cougar’s case, a Bengal) and a jungle cat (Felis Chaus). Cougar’s mom is 8 pounds and his father is a 30-pound jungle cat. He’s about 16 pounds, super intelligent, spirited, and toilet trained. A writer without a cat (or two) is not to be trusted.