Not Always on the Page

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Take Joy by Jane Yolen

Writing is not always done on the page.

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Often I think about a book for years, and that is rarely done at my desk. I think in the shower, on an airplane, in that moment right before sleep claims me. I think rocking a grandchild to sleep, or while listening to music.

Some days, as my husband and I drive along, jazz music blaring from the radio, I go into a kind of daze, hearing the last few pages of a novel or a story as if on a radio broadcast.

I do not write those pages down.

Three reasons, really.

First, that may not be the actual ending of the book. I am someone who does not outline but lets a story grow by setting my characters loose on their own. Often the characters end up somewhere entirely different than I planned.

Second, what sounds good during a drive—lulled by the car and the music and my sense of setting off on an adventure—usually lies flat on the page.

And third, I cannot capture what is in my head that quickly by writing the thing down pen to paper. My hand is simply not that quick. I need to be at the keyboard.

There is a fourth reason more difficult to explain. It has to do with the fleetingness of the dream state. What I concoct is such a state is a kind of open door to the subconscious. Like any dream, it is not literal, more a suggestion of what I might mean. Probably I will have half-a-dozen of these daydream scenario before I actually set one down.