Making the decision to return to my more writerly way of life has prompted the most wonderful discussions with my friends and family, as well as new acquaintances. We talk about inspiration, building a plot, what parts of a story are parts of me and which are so not, and how it feels to part with (and/or kill off) a character of whom I am fond.
The first stage, when I self-published my short story collection, looked like a group of people who had known me for anywhere from 2 to 7 years realizing I was a writer. I guess that's because I'd gone so underground in thinking of myself as a writer, too. Suddenly these friends and colleagues who knew me as being a data-driven manager, a detail-oriented event plan contributor, and one who gave good office saw me as my truly creative self. What I'm most grateful for in this reacclimatization to my artsy self is what I learned about the creative interests of those around me—as creators or consumers. The dialogue that ensued was full of creative thinking, critical thinking, and passion for the arts.
A wonderful side effect of these conversations about process and the writerly life is my increased mindfulness of how writing works for me. Michelangelo said, "Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it." Allow me to be super-duper clear: I am not comparing myself to Michelangelo in any way—I don't even sculpt. What resonates with me from his quote is the notion of artist as seeker as opposed to creator or maker. I find the story, and sometimes the story finds me. I get inspired more when I looking carefully at the world around me—when I exist in a state of perceptive openness.
I tend to work on more than one thing at a time—right now I'm working on a novel and two stories. I was working on a novel and one story (trying to push myself to focus most often on the novel), but then inspiration bubbled up and could not be denied. Now that new story is all I want to focus on, because in the quiet moments of thinking about my grocery list or crocheting a blanket for my friend's impending baby, the characters reveal themselves to me—I understand what they will do next and why. A description comes to me, helping add emotional depth to the where of the story. There most certainly are worse problems to have than more than one story trying to write itself, and seeker that I am I must go to the work calling me, trapped in the center of the stone.