Monday, 30 January 2012


I remember traveling when I was younger, that I had to learn again and again to trust my intuition. I'd step into something I wasn't sure about and then realize that I'd ignored what I'd already sensed in advance. Often too late, though not distastrously so, luckily. This may be an advantage of being an older traveler, or at least in my case it is. I've learned to trust my instincts and intuitions, gut feelings and desires. I'm both more flexible now and more certain. How to explain that paradox? Well, the place for paradoxes is India -- a string of fresh marigolds hanging in a tiny, grimy mechanics shop, dazzlingly clean white kurtas and turbans in a backdrop of cows grazing on garbage and men pissing on the roadside. Purity and filth, dignity and indignity.

The novel I'm currenty writing and researching begins in India and comes from a story I once I heard (or read?) that caught my imagination. It's a small anecdote really, just an opening into an idea, but it's stayed with me through the years. That story has come together in my imagination with a story set in rural Manitoba. Why? I don't know yet. But again I have learned to trust my intuition in writing. If nothing else, it makes the process a lot more interesting for me. I put things together because I sense they belong together. I don't work from an outline, although I do have a pretty good sense of where the story's going. I feel like an outline would take the fun out of it for me. New characters sometimes appear who take the story in a direction I hadn't expected. Main characters refuse to follow the plot I've envisioned for them. But once I've written a first draft, then I do go back and make an outline of what I've done and look for holes, etc.

I also have a policy of not talking much about the novel, or letting anyone read it, before it's written. It's almost a superstition, like a playoff beard. Once, when I was a kid, I snuck a look at my Christmas presents before Christmas morning. I never did it again. I think you can spend your ideas by talking about them too much. Afterwards, when it's written and I'm revising or feel "done", then sure. But not before. The one exception is the talking I do with David, my husband. He listens but doesn't pry. Often he's half asleep and just grunts a bit which keeps me talking. He may seem bored (probably not a pose). And sometimes he suggests things that I initially dismiss but that later return to me and I end up using.

I'm back at Sangam House today, just for one night, then taking the night train to Hampi with two writers I've met here. Then to Bombay. Home soon.

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