My UCLA extension class, Novel IV, ended Tuesday. I’ve said before what a great class it was, and one of the highlights was that the instructor arranged for us to Skype with the author of the book we had studied all quarter, “Middle Passage.”
We all got to introduce ourselves and ask two questions. What an opportunity. He is an incredibly thoughtful and engaging man, with a great sense of humor to boot.
Knowing that he is a buddhist, like myself, I asked him what he does if he has a story idea while meditating. He laughed and admitted it’s never happened to him. It happens to me when I’m on retreat, meditating for longer periods of time, and I never know if I should respect the practice of meditation and just let it go, or break my concentration to jot the idea down. When it happens, it always seems like the best idea I’ve ever had, and so it’s difficult to just let it go. Anyhow, Johnson’s vote was for stopping to write it down.
He said a lot of quotable things over the course of the class, but my favorite by far was about why he loves writing. He said: “Where else in life do you get to keep working at something until you get it right?” He talked about how we don’t get to edit our speech or our actions in the moments that they happen, but with fiction, we can revise until we’re happy with what we’ve got. I just love that.
I’m already signed up for Novel V, with the same instructor. It starts in two weeks, and I volunteered to be the first to submit fifty pages. So in the next couple weeks, I need to find time to polish up my first couple of chapters. Next week is AWP, and my kids’ spring break, so things continue to be hectic, but I will make the time somehow.