"There is no revising a blank page. Keep going." --from Naomi Wolf's The Treehouse
What's the one thing that piqued your curiosity early on and never shook loose? That started a writing dream you can't walk away from?
For me it's the idea of a huge, hollow tree--a sycamore to be exact. A sycamore that, at the turn of the 19th century, sported a hollow trunk big enough to shelter an entire pioneer family--parents and four children--until they could build a log cabin. That had to have been a mighty tree! Upon reading the historical account some years back, the idea for my book took root. And what a journey the writing has been.
For fun, when family gathered last month--some from far-flung places--we trekked to a later version of a hollow sycamore (certainly much younger than the pioneers' tree), located in a park across town. There my dear daughter-in-law and talented photographer (thanks, Suzan!) captured this picture--one proud grandma and grandkids squirreled away in the bowels of a tree. Talk about trying to put yourself in your book's setting!
All of this reminded me of Naomi Wolf's book, The Treehouse, Eccentric Wisdom from My Father on How to Live, Love and See (2005). Though not about a hollow tree, it is about a treehouse, a family's relationship, and lessons passed on to another generation. In Wolf's case, the lessons extended to the craft of writing since her father, Leonard, was a poet and teacher. In her introduction she wrote, "I wanted to capture some of what he taught me about love, happiness, loss, and above all, about the power of the imagination, as I learned from him how to build a treehouse in the woods."
She divides the book into twelve writing lessons:
1. Be Still and Listen... 2. Use Your Imagination... 3. Destroy the Box... 4. Speak in Your Own Voice... 5. Identify Your Heart's Desire... 6. Do Nothing Without Passion... 7. Be Disciplined With Your Gift... 8. Pay Attention to Detail... 9. Your Only Wage Will Be Joy... 10. Mistakes Are Part of the Draft... 11. Frame Your Words... 12. Sign It and Let It Go.
Lots of great writing wisdom in the topic titles alone!
A sample of Leonard's advice that Wolf quotes: "Don't wait for inspiration, but sit down quietly, and begin; once you have gotten to work, shut up, even to yourself, about writers block; use your imagination; and keep working. That is your draft. The first one will always be terrible; don't worry about that; keep working. Cut anything that is not in your own voice or anything about which you do not feel passionately or anything that is not true. If you have taken a wrong turn, go back; that is part of the process. Then edit, edit, edit. Finally, know when you are done. Of all these, 'get to work' is the most important."
All of this in a volume that set out to chronicle the building of a child's dream, that of a treehouse. My pioneer family's dream started with a hollow tree. My dream started with their story.
Where did your writing dream begin?
(p.s. for fun, check out Jess's recent post at Falling Leaflets, where she shares photos of her younger self...reading up in a tree. Hands up if you identify with this child!)