One of the reasons I write is for the sheer surprise of it all. The work never turns out the way I think it will. I noticed this for the first time several years ago when I had returned to school and was given an assignment. We were to read an academic work, report on it, and then “re-vision” it, which meant writing the essence of the work in a different way. I had chosen a book of philosophical arguments made by astrophysicists about the existence of God.
Yeah, I know. I’m a geek.
Anyway, as I re-visioned the work, I imagined writing some lofty spiritual tome to counteract the often-atheistic conclusions of the scientists. I had drafted the work and was rereading it when one little sentence caught my eye, a sentence that changed everything. I had mentioned, almost in passing, that there were no female astrophysicists quoted in the book. I did a little research and learned about several women who had made exciting and substantial contributions to the field. I learned about them and their beliefs, then wrote an imaginary dialogue. It turned out to be a lot of fun…because I was willing to be surprised and to follow an unexpected, tantalizing thread.
Now I’m having the experience again. I’ve been working on Exodus (a short-hand, working title), which includes essays and weekly meditations. Only they’re not meditations anymore, because I find that people get freaked out about meditating. Now they’re musings, which–I hope–creates a more playful, relaxed, innovative environment for people. The whole book is taking on a much more playful tone. This feels a bit odd, since a story of plagues, death, and Charlton Heston as a grand and magnificent Moses seems hardly the fodder for childlike explorations. But I’m going to follow it and see where it leads. Why not?
We never know where our writings are going to lead us, just like books we read take us to places we never expect to go.
I love the way writings take over – they have a life of their own – have with it!