Following the labyrinthine road of creativity

July 2010

I’ve been back from Europe long enough to skitter into the chaos of day-to-day life, but not so long that I have forgotten what it felt like to be rising every day to ride a train to a new locale, to have no deadline, one suitcase, and a ticket to anywhere I chose to go.

Over the weeks since I flew back to America I have continued pushing at the story that presented itself to me when I was walking through Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Luxembourg, France, Belgium, and Holland. Following the trail of my parents journey was both pivotal in the grieving of my mother’s recent death—the loss of both parents now—and in the gathering of a series of impressions that speak to the book I have been working on, the idea I have been pursuing, the memories that have been haunting me, and the insights I have had about it all.

I am moving from the phase of experiencing the world around me into the sheltered cavern of the writer’s inner world seeking a way to translate all that I saw and felt and thought and remembered and connected into compelling prose.

How shall I do this? I don’t know for sure. I am finding my way, and that is what this blog will chronicle over the coming weeks.

Blogging A EUROPEAN JOURNEY now takes a turn down a different path into the creative process of a memoirist. I’ll be looking at my process of making a book and posting those thoughts from my writing cabin in the Sandhills.

To begin, I can tell you I have done these things since returning from Europe:

1) I have gone through each of the three moleskin journals I wrote in while traveling. I compiled pages of impressions and thoughts, details and reportage each day I was on the road. I have gone back through these notes reading and simply watching to see what is there. Anything that hit me as pertinent to the book idea I was working on before I left to follow my parents’ path through Europe I highlighted with yellow marker. I included in this anything that I found surprising, fresh, helpful in my thinking about the power of story.

2) At the same time I have gone through the hundreds of photos I took while walking, which I uploaded every night from my camera to my laptop. Each of these I have perused, in the order I captured them and in so doing set the memories spinning again of towns and images from windows, the brisk cut of wind, a man’s face. It all rose up again and played before my eyes. In this way I solidified for myself the memories before they escaped. So all I as doing was “learning my research,” you might say. Studying my material. Putting it inside myself so that it might bubble around, churn, work on itself, on me, on the energies that drive creation.

Once I have completed this process, I will begin to transcribe onto notecards the material I have highlighted. Why? I can not tell you, except I know that by taking the insights and memories out of the notebooks and getting them onto independent slips of paper will make them more independent in my mind, and once again I will be reacquainting myself with them.

I know where I am headed with this process. I am headed toward having all these surprising thoughts, images, details and pivotal understandings in a form that will allow me to free associate with them—outside the imposed structure of a notebook or computer environment.

By free associating I beckon original creation.

At that point I will begin writing the shimmering images that are most prominent in my memory As I do this the free-form associations I have allowed myself to make between the shards of experience will find their natural homes in whatever it is I have to say.

That, dear reader, is the current state of my process concerning the composition of a book of literary memoir, in part drawn from my recent walk-a-bout on the Continent.

I’ll report again as I move forward with the process.