What are the chances that, at the first literary event I go to upon returning to my hometown after a decade's hiatus, I would meet a fellow writer who grew up three houses down from me?
It's about as coincidental as the time I had a surprise run-in with the "celebrity" yoga teacher I had been following for years on social media and Yoga Glo in a hot spring pool in the middle of Colorado.
This, of course, was even LESS coincidental than the time I spent a night in a cabin north of San Francisco, commiserating in an attempt to evoke the spirit of a great-great-grandfather for the persona poem that would complete my graduate collection, Ghost Stories. This particular grandfather was known for having chased a man off of his porch steps with a gun, and somehow, was exonerated for the crime. Wrestling with his spirit in the cabin, I learned that it was stubborn and protective, maybe even a touch ornery.
Which is why the next day, I was not surprised to notice a group of guests huddled around the concoierge's desk, replaying the security camera footage, asking if I knew anything about the strange banging noises on the porch outside my cabin, or if I knew how there could be so much noise without a trace of the visitor who caused it?
Coincidence? I'll let you decide.
I'm currently cozied up in the luxurious Hotel Keflavik. I had planned on sleeping at the airport, but my nearly 30-year-old body has finally grown stubborn enough in its preferences to demand a soft bed when traveling. So, yesterday, I searched the web and found a last-minute deal that placed me in this four-star hotel, its gilded ceilings dripping with gold reflection, on my still very necessary early-twenty-something budget.
This story is not that important, except that it demonstrates the way in which I've learned to move through the world: by listening. Intuitively. Taking chances, and being open to chances. Making space enough to allow for, and delight in, coincidence. Not overthinking it. Or, perhaps more accurately, overthinking it first (I'm more type A than I like to admit sometimes), but then letting go of the reins just a touch. This fancy-shmancy hotel on a hostel budget is testimony just how well it works out most of the time.
When writing, it's always worked the same way for me. I put things off until the last moment, stewing and contemplating until my mind is tired and my bones are aching. Then, I sit down at the computer...and write.
This has worked well for poetry. But now, my stomach flips a bit to admit that I believe I'll need some new strategies. When I arrive in Dublin, my focus will be on fiction writing. I've created the outline, I've listed the characters. But I'm still finding that sweet spot between clinging onto the reins and letting them loose.
If you're a writer, I'd love to hear what works for you - how do you create structure AND allow for those organic, coincidental elements of the story to come through? How do you let the psyche ramble but in a direction that serves the story?
Hopefully, this question, and not a disgruntled ghost, is the only thing that keeps me up at night this month. But, until then, I've got some jetlag to sleep off . . .