Tuesday, October 20, 2009

i'm thinking in themes again

I've never been the kind of writer who walks around with whole plots (or even parts, really) in my head, lists of characters and their stories and traits and all of that. At best, I'll have a picture of a scene, kind of a feeling of it, and I'll want to make it into a story but I don't usually know how. I'll tell you this: those writers who walk around with nine novels in their heads they've never gotten around to writing down--I will never be one of those. Maybe that's why, in the end, I chose nonfiction as my focus, instead of fiction. It's easy to say I picked it because I could just write about all the crazy things that have happened in my life, how God's been in all of that. If I couldn't fill a whole book, then I could at least get something undergrad-thesis-length out of it. But I don't think that's it either. In any case, when someone makes me write something less memoir-y, use more research based stuff, the essay is generally better and I do really enjoy it.

I think it's something different than all of that, though. I've noticed lately, while doing mundane things like walking to the bathroom or washing my hands or taking out the trash, that I'm thinking in themes. Not in a 'I want my story to be about friendship or hope' way. More like connecting things I hadn't thought about connecting, realizing how they could go together, how something good could be built off it based on that union.

I'll give you an example. One of the stories in my thesis is about amputees, phantom limbs, and as per usual for me (buh), not knowing my dad. The other day I was thinking about how the name of the place where I was born--Camp Lejeune--has roots in the French language (sort of ironic, all things considered, but for reasons that I'll get to eventually, hopefully). Le jeune, like el joven. The young person, the young one. Youngin', as we'd say, to make it a one word noun. And then June, my middle name. June comes from Juno which comes from the latin iuvenis, young man. Like juvenile. I want to write something about how young I feel, how I feel like I've got so much catching up to do, how, even though there's a lot I understand much differently than other people, there's so much more I don't get yet. About being young and full of fire (that goes both good and bad ways, good as in passion, bad as in reading something I wrote six months ago and thinking, how obnoxious!). And the way that connects to the roots of the words that mean things to me, are connected with pieces of my life. What the goddess Juno was like, the people in France called Les Jeunes, etc.

I have all these things I want to shape stories around, things that make the story mean something. Except a lot of times I don't feel like I have the story. It's like I'm working backwards. I don't want to write competent, clean stories. I want to write things that people feel, that make them want for something good. My friend Tristan once told me, back when I was sort of wishy-washy about God, that I was going to be a Christian writer, but a cool one like Don Miller. Well, I don't know about that, but it would be pretty cool, and the more I think about it, the more I want it. What am I talking about? I just want to write. But I've never really known what about, beyond writing about my life. But that's the thing, I almost don't want to write about that anymore, because I feel like there's just better stuff I could write about.

I don't know where I'm going with this, really. If I can, if I'm able to take these things, these lines and the pictures and the feelings and make them into something, stringing in little parts about how a few words can outline a whole part of a life--well, I'd like that. I think it'd be pretty neat.

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