I like instructions…

What follows, are instructions for starting again, after you’ve finished your novel and you find yourself adrift on a Thursday afternoon. It’s a step-by-step on what to do next. Obviously, we’re not all writing novels, but maybe you’ve fallen in love with a novelist, or a novelist has fallen in love with you, and you want to understand what’s going on in her mind, or his mind. There might be clues here. This list of instructions was also a Sorbet. What does that mean? you might ask. Well, a sorbet is a piece of writing that goes out to a select, and private list of subscribers, from Thomas Trofimuk, once a week (subscribe on this website at the “CONTACT” page).Instructions for starting again

  1. Buy scotch. You’re going to need it after you have written – when you are emptied out and one, perfect straw-coloured pour of scotch is an excellent salve. A good day of writing, or bad, scotch is a fine salve.
  2. Begin when you find the image, the line, the snippet of a conversation that will carry you through months and months of writing ahead.
  3. Your only tools are curiosity and intelligence – one of which you have in abundance, the other, perhaps just enough. Don’t get hung up on how you show the story, because it’s all fair game – 1st person, 2nd person, 3rd person. Present tense. Past. Forward through time. Backward through time. Rhyming couplets. Magic realism. Just look for the truth of the story, regardless of the facts, and don’t worry about how you get there. It’ll sort itself out.
  4. There’s a mountain called Mt. Elise in your new story, and you don’t know why it’s called that. You might start to imagine this mountain and how it got its name. You might imagine a woman named Elise, who lived in England in 1758 and never saw, in person, the mountain named after her. Long before some white guy from England named it after his sister, the Cree people called this mountain: Miskiwan. You start to imagine the shape of its peak, how it masses up against the sky. You might even begin to chart a path to its summit. This mountain will be a character in your book. She will breathe and have moods. She will be delightful and she will be dangerous. She is already alive.
  5. You are about to become lost. Let this happen.
  6. Each morning the old man walks a little farther, moves a little higher on the mountain, arrives back at his cabin a little later. As if he’s training for something. As if he knows exactly what he’s doing.
  7. Don’t think you know what you’re doing because you don’t. But know the arc of the story, even if you don’t know its ending.
  8. An idea of something deeper might be enough to get you through.
  9. Walther Fasting believes he is irrelevant, insignificant, inconsequential – and this belief brings an intense freedom.
  10. Avoid, at all costs, stringing “I” words together – like, “is irrelevant, insignificant, inconsequential.”
  11. Perhaps, start with a snippet of a conversation – a line that sparks.
  12. Find a way to care about your character – but not too much – even before you know him – or her. Find something to care about, even if it’s illogical, or nonsensical, or absurd.
  13. He wants to climb this mountain and he is too old to climb mountains. He knows he is too old, and still, he wants to climb it. It is a quiet want. He does not, will not, talk about it. It just sits there in his gut, waiting and watching.
  14. Look for the honour of your character. There is honour in everyone. Make sure you’re open to seeing it – and when you find it, receive it with grace and humility. Ask: How will your character’s honour manifest?
  15. Don’t get hung up on an image – remember the woman in the flowered dress and Hunter rubber boots standing outside a Starbucks. You fell in love with her before she could tell you her story. She started to whisper it to you one night in bed but you looked up at her and told her you loved her – like an idiot – and she was quiet after that. Don’t do that again.
  16. Can you see it? An old man walks each morning under the tall pines at the base of the mountain. Why? It’s cool in the green-black forest bottom and he wears a thick sweater even on the hottest days. How does he walk? Is it a sure and steady pace? Does he stop every now and then to look around? Is he really just pausing for a looksee, or is he catching his breath?
  17. Don’t be the stone thrown into the middle of a still lake – be the deer, lost in a nest of tawny grass, watching the ripples.
  18. It is difficult to begin again. Admit that. Tell yourself that as you fall asleep. To say, okay, the past is behind me, and what now? – is an act of courage. Do not overthink it. Forget everything you think you know about writing stories. Discard all your notions. Just focus on listening and observing and noticing. Perhaps, start with an image and move outward from there.
  19. Writing is an act of hope. You’re in the business of hope.

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