These pages are frequently home to matters of writing craft; today let me describe a writing therapy.
This Spring I am going to get back to work writing a novel. As all writers know, it takes a considerable toll to turn out pages at a quantity, and with a quality, that will make the end product worthwhile. The effort reminds me of training for a marathon. Every day the need to log miles on the laptop. And not bursts – or not just bursts – but the steady, painful, foot by foot, slog forward. Day after day. Relentless. I have done it before; I know the daily efforts will come to a conclusion, but there is no denying that it is hard, hard, lonely work. To keep my spirits up, this time I have decided to cross train. I won’t just run a marathon; I am taking up a new sport, one with a very different training regimen. Something to counter-balance the inwardness and the determined grinding of writing a long piece of fiction.
With this in mind, at the first of the year I began a project I am calling Imagined Conversations. Each day I create and post on my website a drawing and a few lines of imaginary conversation. Sometimes the words of text are created from whole cloth; sometimes I post the fruits of the eavesdropping I do in San Francisco where I live.
As I said, I began the project on January 1, 2015 and as I write this post on February 28th, I have created 59 illustrations. I began with a New Year’s message:
which captured my mood at the time. I followed it the next day with a cheery vision:
I do not try to for stylistic or narrative consistency; I post whatever moves me at the moment. Some days my prompt is an event on the world stage, as this one from the days just after the Paris killings:
Other days I travel where whimsy takes me:
I don’t have recurring characters and my message is never the same.
Some days I take a literary slant:
At other times I chase lines from scripture:
or from the streets of San Francisco:
I am counting on the discipline of posting a new drawing every day to be helpful to the discipline of writing my next novel, but I confess an ulterior motive. I also hope to create a bigger following for my blog, particularly followers who will be interested in reading my stories as well as viewing the drawings in the Imagined Conversations project. (You can help by following me at www.jayduret.com/illustrations/facecards or on Instagram @JoeFaces.)
But the most important part of this effort is the therapeutic part. The part of the brain I exercise when I draw is a different part than the one I punish when I write. I can wind myself in knots struggling to get words on paper but turn around and sketch for an hour completely relaxed. In fact, I can feel the writing tightness in my shoulders bleed away as I draw. I am one of those sad suckers who believes in home-spun therapies, and at least for the minute, this one is working for me.
Jay Duret is a San Francisco-based writer. Second Wind recently published Jay’s first novel, Nine Digits. See the trailer here.