Courage and Faith

I’ve been semi-writing the little story I’m working on now (I don’t think it’s going to end up being a little story) for more than a year. It’s been somewhere in my mind since 1999.

This whole year — 2019 — I was deeply involved in three projects — finishing The Price, keeping my vow to the young woman I was 40 years ago to finish HER story, and then the China book. But always this project hung around like a dog who wants to live with me.

Now that I’m finished being famous (at least for this year) and all the broo-ha-ha of the holidays is distilling into the actual holidays I’m “stuck” with the project. I surrendered to it a couple of weeks ago and started just getting down to it every morning. It meant back-tracking, mostly, and getting reacquainted with the story as I have known it so far. It’s kind of nice to look at writing that way — kind of from the outside but with the ability to improve it because it’s yours. I found a lot of small inconsistencies, like characters nodding in response to a blind man. OH WELL…

But as I worked, I felt the story take hold of me. The dates began to line up and dead ends in my research. If you write about the early/mid 13th century you find out that — 1) not a lot remains, 2) not a lot was recorded, 3) people in those days didn’t keep great records; they didn’t have paper and it seems that what mattered most were finances and God, 4) they had no idea I’d be writing about them; I’m sure if they did, they’d have been more thorough. πŸ˜€

I began with the idea of showing something of the life of the Goliards, and that’s still my course, but it looks like there will be much, much more. I’d hoped to write a novel that had nothing to do with religion, but it looks like that’s not going to happen this time. When a writer finds his/her characters he/she has to submit to their lives. A writer can start out — here’s a guy and what he/she does — but once that’s happened, I think maybe particularly with historical fiction — the times capture the character, and he/she goes off to live in his/her world taking the writer with him/her.

It’s not much fun writing when you don’t know where your story is going. It’s easy to say, “Well THAT’S not happening,” when it doesn’t feel like it’s happening. More than once I’ve experienced that, and it’s not easy to keep going. But I’ve also experienced that if I keep going, it’s going to tell me what it is and where I have to take it. That’s where this story arrived the day before yesterday. Sometimes I wonder if I write my stories or if they just use me.

25 thoughts on “Courage and Faith

  1. And what is another plus is that what you write about would be basically not really my taste, but it has become my taste. I still have lasting impressions of Martin of Glenn and do you realise if you enter Martha Kennedy books into Google, you get the complete range of you wonderful works. Keep writing Martha and I will keep reading.

  2. I understand your problems about medieval writings – or the lack of them. If the story has been hanging around and haunting you for that long it needs to be written. Sometimes I do feel we are acting as conduits for our writings. Stick with it, Martha. It sounds as though this one has legs. πŸ™‚

  3. I like Bernard Cornwell as an author, he writes mediaeval stories, often quite violent, but interesting. I also met a female author who’s pseudonym was Ellis Peters, she wrote the Brother Cadvael murder mysteries. She was in hospital and I didn’t realise who she was. Lovely lady. X good luck with the writing xxxx

  4. How does talent fit into the writing process? It’s hard to imagine the best writers (most gifted and whatnot) are just the best listeners and typists. πŸ™‚

    • It’s funny you wrote that just now — in my story, a young painter’s teacher is explaining just that to him. It’s very rough but…

      β€œ…here is the point.” Beato was suddenly very serious with his son. β€œYou have ability to become a very fine painter, but you don’t know much of anything yet. Under normal circumstances, an apprentice like you would not have painted on a wall yet, but we were up against time and, to my immense surprise, you turned out to be good enough to do some of the work in that sanctuary. But talent is not everything. Without practice, talent is a peach picked green. What good is it? We can see the beauty of the peach but we can’t eat it. Do you understand what I’ve said to you?”

      I think as far as writing is concerned, talent is the innate ability to use language to evoke vicarious experiences in others. I think it exists with other abilities — like the ability to observe, to derive the story from a situation, maybe even the ability to inspire others to open up to you so you can listen. I don’t think everyone has this innate ability, and I don’t know where it comes from. But truly, everyone talks to me.

      I also believe very much in inspiration — and maybe talent is the ability to be inspired. I totally get why Homer opens both the Iliad and Odyssey with, “Tell me, Muse…”

      Ever since the 80s when people started talking about writing as “a process” something (IMO) was lost. I think writing an argumentative essay is a process, but there was something else involved in the novels I’ve written, something ineffable. Creative writing isn’t just a process. Maybe writing talent is the ability or willingness to surrender to what has inspired you. πŸ™‚

  5. Some stories write themselves – they flow from the writer as if fully formed. Some people write using a process others create and record the words and thoughts – they are the story tellers!

  6. Funny how the story has a way of taking over your characters AND the plot. I always think that’s how you know you are really writing something when the characters grab the keyboard and start telling YOU their stories.

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