You are fiddling with the small currant branch I brought in from my morning walk. Something broke it. I noticed and twisted it the rest of the way, brought it in and made an impromptu centerpiece. It has currants, but they are still bright green pearls with a kiss of brown where the blooms were.
“Can you start too soon?” you ask.
“I think you can.”
A currant pops off and rolls to the edge of the table. You catch it with a look of triumph, start rolling it around in your palm.
“But I thought you could start anywhere. Tahini. A roller skate.”
“Well, yes,” I say. “You could even start with tahini in the roller skate, but it could still be too soon.”
“I don’t get it.”
“Sure you get it.” I pinch the currant from your palm. “Open your mouth.”
You are all too willing to let me order you around like Westley, so you open your mouth. “Go ahead, bite it,” I say. You do, and now you are squinting and wrinkling your nose and looking for a place to spit the currant.
“I’m sorry,” I smile.
“You are not sorry. Blech! I trusted you!”
“Well, I appreciate that,” I say. Verlyn reminds that our readers want to trust us. They want to grant authority to a writer. But you have to earn it. I mean, a writer can lose a reader’s trust pretty darn quick if she goes around handing out green currants in the guise of edible fruit.”
“I still don’t get it.”
“You do,” I say. “What did the currant do to you? Tell me. And remember, this is for posterity so be honest.” I wink.
“It was too hard. Watery in the wrong way. Bitter. Sour. Put my teeth on edge. Made me want to spit. You are going to have to make up for this.”
I tip my head down a little, blink sweetly, then hand you a blueberry to soothe. You give me a look of minor forgiveness in return.
“It’s like with the currant berry. You can start too soon. Or take the tahini. You can open your jar and go nowhere with it. Or you can forget to add the chickpeas, salt, garlic, olive oil. It will be bitter, off-putting, not ‘ready’ to serve.”
“So then what? Is a writer supposed to wait around until someone dumps chickpeas and garlic at her back door?”
“Not at all. A writer can go hunting. With a mind map. Free writing. Guided writing. I’m especially partial to guided writing if a person is dealing with deep stuff that requires a lot of processing before it can take shape.”
“So I am going to have to work on getting shapely?”
“Heh. Just do this, once a week, until you feel like you’ve begun repeating yourself for lack of memories: Use the leading phrase ‘I remember’ and write 5-10 pages of memories. That’s it.”
“That’s it. Make sure you handwrite, because that’ll help take you into your body, where memories are first made. You can try to get shapely later on.”
I pluck another currant berry and put it in your palm, so you’ll remember to remember.
“And this works for any book?”
“It can,” I say.
You hold your berry to the light, look at it like you’re trying to look through it. “And it’s okay if it tastes like green currant berries?”
“It is,” I smile. “Because I am not going to eat it.”
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