My life, and my writing, seem to go in themes. I get some topic or image or story or person in my head, and then everywhere I go, I see things that tie into that. And, of course, magpie that I am, I steal everything I can. They go in chains too. I can follow the start of a theme, see where it led to, go from there.
Themes this year have been:
- Water and sharks and oceans (two stories, both published)
which led to the opposite of:
- Land and fire and smoke (two stories, both published)
which led to campfires, which led to:
- Chained ladies/stars/constellation (also two stories, both published)
which led to flight and skies, which led to:
- Angels and birds, especially crows, and feathers (three stories in progress)
both of which led to women and the way we take flight to escape, which led to:
- Fairy tales (two stories, one published)
which led directly to:
- Wolves and fur (two stories, in progress)
If you look at my books for this year, as well as my Youtube playlists and my DeviantArt faves (all of which tend to be huge inspirations for my story ideas), you can practically follow the themes as I was working them over in my brain.
The themes never quite go away, of course. It’s not like I finish writing one and move to the next. Instead, they tend to blend, to carry over and carry into, whatever it is that happens next.
Case in point: I’ve been writing and thinking about wolves. About fur. About transitions beneath moons. Then, Chicago, oddly enough, was full of fur. Women were wearing fur all over the place–coats and hats and scarves and boots. Around their necks. Over their hands. Real fur. New fur. All these creatures walking the streets of Chicago, dark against the snow. I kept wanting to touch them, to bury beneath them in a cave, while also wanting to slap snow-cold cheeks in fury and confusion.
Then, mid-day today, I have a conversation with a writer friend of mine and she mentions a story that involves a photo by Diane Arbus. It took me a moment to get an image of her photos in my brain; it had been that long since I’d heard her name.
And then, just a few hours later, between writing, I turn on the TV, something I never do mid-day, and here was a movie. Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus. I didn’t mean to watch it. I couldn’t turn away. Even if it hadn’t been intertwined in all my current themes, I would have watched it anyway. It’s the second-best movie you’ve never heard of, I swear. (Note, however, if you’re a huge fan of Arbus and her life, you won’t like this film. It’s imaginary. Very. Don’t expect a documentary.)
While I was writing today, I realized I’m still on wolves and fur, but I feel it coming to a close. Water and selkies and mermen and starfish are coming into view. I reach for them, I magpie them into my pockets until there’s no more room, I carry them in my greedy fingers until I can’t carry anymore. I will hold them until I’m done with wolves, done with fur and full moons that look like the circle of a flash, and then I’ll sink into this new theme, awake to all its possibilities, carrying the old themes deep in my lungs like air.
Kiss kiss bang bang, s.
“People ask me when I start one of these projects, what is your theme? I haven’t the faintest idea. That’s why you’re writing the book, it seems to me, to find out. To me, it’s a journey. It’s an adventure. It’s traveling in a country you’ve never been in and everything is going to be new, and because of that, vivid. And don’t make up your mind too soon. Let it be an experience.” ~David McCullough