Thursday, February 25, 2016

On Finding Joy inside the Hot Stove

After you purge your house, after you cart the mish mash of no longer loved furniture to Goodwill, the dining room table, the assortment of end tables and throw pillows, the knick knacks and doo-dads, the gifts you never liked but sorta feel guilty about chucking

and you cart off load after load of pots and pans and towels and old toys, the clothes that don't fit who are we kidding, the holey socks, the seventeen random charger cords (WHAT ELECTRONIC DEVICES DO THEY BELONG TO? WHO KNOWS?)

and you shine a spotlight on every nook and cranny and it's become an obsession, picking things up and knowing at once that they mean nothing to you/you won't miss them/they certainly don't give you any joy

and so you toss them away, and slowly slowly slowly the empty spaces of your house appear

drawers and closets, walls and floors, corners

entire rooms

and suddenly you realize that while it's easy to name the things that don't give you joy, it's hard to figure out what things do...

Last year I revised a book about broken people that nearly broke me. To write it, I had to go, as the writer and teacher Jane Resh Thomas said during a lecture at Hamline University-- to the hot stove and sit. I'm not saying that what I was writing was autobiographical. The book is purely fantasy. There's magic and creatures from myth. A made-up, dark and twisted world.

I was in the world for six months, rooting around and digging and churning. The people there were cruel. They betrayed each other. They were afraid.

Most of the stories I've written have been like that one. Dark. Brutal. Sad.

I'm getting to be something of an expert on how to Go In and Come Out without scorching myself. Often this involves copious amounts of chocolate after a long day of writing. Or wine. Fun, mindless TV. For example, I am on the eleventh season of Supernatural.

Anyhoo, I sent my broken people book off and who knows what will become of it and now I am knee deep in a totally different book. It's also about broken people, big shocker. But with a twist.

It's funny. There are entire sections that are... happy.

I am having the hardest damn time with it. It hit me the other day that there's a Hot Stove for Joy too. Going In means reaching back, rooting around/digging/churning in whatever is the opposite of darkness, brutality and sadness.

I guess that would be a Hot Stove of lightness, love and happiness?

So I've been looking around my kinda-on-the-empty-side house and thinking, huh. What kind of place is this? What does the furniture look like? What pictures hang on the walls?

Should there be flowers?

Sometimes I really think you are overthinking things


  1. I hope you hear good news about the "broken people" project and stay in the flow of the latest one. The creative process is such a strange one, I find. :)

    1. Thanks, Yvonne. It's interesting to me that whenever I think I've figured something out about my process, it changes. I'm trying to look at it as a fascinating thing, instead of as a frustrating one :)

  2. Yes, there is a hot stove of joy. I think what we seek is power and passion and energy, and it can be light or dark. (Wait. Am I describing The Force, which can have its light or dark side?)