Hurricane Katrina drove my whole life off the rails. We lost our house and everything we owned. I lost my job, as most City employees were laid off after the disaster. We spent months crashing at the homes of family and friends.
When we started to claw our life back together, I went to graduate school. I had been planning to go anyway, and I was in Baton Rouge anyway, where Louisiana State University is. If you don’t know what to do with your life, go to graduate school. So I was very busy with library school for a couple years, and then moving back to New Orleans, reestablishing my career, buying a new house. Writing, which I had abandoned anyway, was not on my radar for many years.
I started writing again because of dreams. Not “I wish” dreams, but actual dreams, while I slept.
I have always had a very active, detailed dream life. I was trained to it, it’s a family tradition. At the breakfast table my mother would ask us kids what we dreamed the night before. She would relate her dreams, and we would analyze them. Her parents and sisters had done it , too. So I learned to remember and record my dreams at a young age.
A couple years ago, I started having dreams where I was writing. Just that — I would sit at a table, with a notebook, and I would write a short story or an essay. That was it, that was the dream. Sometimes when I woke I remembered the story and could scribble some notes down; more often I forgot it.
Or, I would compose a screenplay. I would see it, on a page in screenplay format, materializing before me as I narrated it, with stage directions and everything. But the page in a way would be transparent, too, and behind it I would see the actual film, as filmed, the final cut, with edits and scoring, running behind the page as I told it. (In the dreamspace, you can write, and think, much faster than you can in meatspace.)
Now, I’m not claiming any of this stuff was a masterpiece. In the usual way of dreams, I’ll bet a lot of it wouldn’t have made much sense to my waking mind. But that’s not the point. The point is, I was writing stories again in my dreams. Not just telling stories, or experiencing them, but writing them, with words, on paper.
After a few months I finally twigged to what was going on. Oh, I thought. I should start writing again. My subconscious wants to write.
So I joined a writer’s workshop I heard about at the public library. I dusted off some of my old short stories and a novel, and workshopped them. I did Nanowrimo 2013 and “won” it, although that novel is going to be much longer than 50,000 words and is a long way from being finished.
And I started writing short stories again, too. One of which I just published in the urban fantasy anthology Dirty Magick: New Orleans. Here’s the link to the e-book version; the paperback edition is forthcoming. (Ha-ha, self promotion!)
I don’t have any particular plan for this new phase of my writing career (if you can even call it that.) I contemplate it with non-attachment as best I can. I don’t want to become a full-time writer. I don’t hope to support myself.
I just have this gift. I was given this free gift by the universe, the ability to string words together in a pleasing and meaningful way, and it would be a sin not to use it. Such a waste. The universe doesn’t give many gifts; don’t waste them. Life is hard enough without throwing away what you’ve been given to make it better.
That’s why I started writing again.