What I'm learning about writing today is that the transition to becoming a writer is a lot like switching from the passenger's to the driver's seat, from the perspective of a voracious reader. Even though you've traveled along those same roads hundreds and maybe even thousands of times before, suddenly when it's your turn to make those same turns and to exit off onto those same byways, everything feels different. You have to pay attention now in a way that you never had to before.
While growing up, my parents owned a lake front property. We spent a tremendous amount of time there, but when I turned 14 (goodness; the thought of a 14-year-old me driving around on public streets stills my modern-day heart.) and it was time for me to sit in the driver's seat for the trip, my Dad was endlessly frustrated because I had no idea how to get there. I didn't have even the vaguest sense, in fact. He couldn't believe anyone could be so dense. And a current, more literary version of that dense 14-year-old is emerging a lot around here of late. Sometimes I can't believe how stupid she can be. Hasn't she read books in abundance ever since she's been able? Surely she's picked up on a literary thing or two in all this time? Hasn't she? Isn't this partly how she's defined herself in her own mind? As a very gung ho reader?
All of a sudden, I realize that I'm unclear as to how to handle dialogue. When I research it, I'm befuddled to note that many authors choose to handle it differently. Standardized rules of grammar don't always seem to apply in modern literature. When I note discrepancies like this, I ask myself, what would Carol Shields do in Stone Diaries? I've loved Carol for decades (She wasn't aware of it during her lifetime, but she and I are on a one sided first name basis). Her other books are good, but when I first finished Stone Diaries, I sat stunned. And uncharacteristically quiet. I felt like this, too, when I read Andrew Nicholl's A Good Mayor. I've been eagerly awaiting his second novel ever since. But I digress. My point is, I'm not always sure how to use quotation marks and in fact, see now that maybe they aren't even all that necessary anymore. Or at least to Miriam Toews and her ilk.
I'm working through a lot of frustration these days. I guess I thought writing would be easier than this. I'm finding out - quite emphatically - that it's not. I'll write for days (my baby-steps goal is to complete one page per weekday) and realize at the end of it that I'm in a hazy fog and I don't even really remember the plot line because of all the meanderings filling up the pages between then and now. I frequently have to go back to re-read things so as to keep it relatively linear. I'm struggling with a whole lot of things that I assumed were non-issues. But for the most part, I think I could really get to like this lifestyle. I like it both more and less than I expected to. It's truly a journey and for the time being, I'm happy it's mine.