Out Stealing Horses

As a writer, I've read many, many books on the writing process. I also love to read for the sheer enjoyment of it, but since the writing bug bit me several years ago, I read with a writer's eye, that is...as I read, I pay attention to how the author coins a phrase so that it evokes an emotion from me, how they describe the setting so I feel as if Im been there, how they plot the action so I feel like I'm right in the thick of it.

Today I read an excerpt from Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson that made me stop and think about the process of writing...

What I do, which I have never let anyone know, is I close my eyes every time I have to do something practical apart from the daily chores everyone has, and then I picture how my father would have done it or how he actually did do it while I was watching him, and then I copy that until I fall into the proper rhythm, and the task reveals itself and grows visible, and that’s what I have done for as long as I can remember, as if the secret lies in how the body behaves towards the task at hand, in a certain balance when you start, like hitting the board in a long jump and the early calculation of how much you need, or how little, and the mechanism that is always there in every kind of job; first one thing and then the other, in a context that is buried in each piece of work, in fact as if what you are going to do already exists in its finished form, and what the body has to do when it starts to move is to draw aside the veil so it all can be read by the person observing.

Per Petterson (2003/2007). Out Stealing Horses. Minneapolis: Graywolf Press.

I thought about the character and how he watched his father for clues when tackling a task he was unsure of and how taking those first steps the task seemed to reveal itself to him, so that he knew which step - which direction to take next.  I liked the idea of treating the piece of work as if it already exists in its finished form and then letting yourself be lead to the completion of the work.

It's like stepping out in faith, trusting that God will direct my writing as I go - seeing the finished product, then allowing God to take me there.

I've sort of been stuck at the beginning of my novel, afraid to take the next step because I'm not sure of the right direction.  I think that's because I've been trying to get there on my own, instead of allowing my Father to show me the way.

Over the next several days, I want to form a mental picture of my book, finished and doing well. Blessing those who read it - a work I can be proud of - one that agents and publishers would be proud to represent. Then, I'm going to start again, allowing Father, God to direct my writing.

It won't matter how long it takes or how many times I have to revise it, because each step of the journey will be revealed to me.

At least that's my plan...and it's a better plan than any I've had before, so we'll see what happens.

What do you think about this excerpt? Does it resonate with you like it did with me? Feel free to leave your comments. I'd love to hear what you think.

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)


Janel said...

I'm still in the planning stages of my novel. I'm brainstorming scenes and writing them on index cards so I can get an idea of where I want to go. I'm sure everything will work out for you. Good luck and have fun!

Jan Christiansen said...

Thanks for the visit, Janel. Hoping your brainstorming produces lots of great ideas.

My planning sort of got derailed by a new job, but it's still percolating in the back of my mind.

Happy writing!