Haha so. Here’s what NaNoWriMo did to me. It inspired me to write on something not WriMo material.
(I know. I can write on whatever I want as long as it’s writing)
So I had this dream. I woke up, spent all day thinking about it. Percolating like an old coffee machine. It started with a few paragraphs from the main character (me, in the story, but obviously not me).
My dad used to collect, what’d he call them? Gutter coins. Sewer pennies. One of those, you know, psychological things. Leftover from his childhood. He’d show me his collection—which, after a lifetime of collecting, was quite ridiculous. He didn’t look proud or anything like that—this wasn’t a measure of success for him. It was a curiosity, I think, the only curiosity he ever allowed himself his whole life. Holding down three jobs for so long tends to beat curiosity out of you.
Also, being physically beaten does that.
It’s not like he lived through the Great Depression or anything, but he might as well have. Poor as a blind goat most of his damned life. Not like he’d fought in any war overseas and didn’t like to tell anyone, and grappled onto the things as some kind of survival mechanism. The war he fought was in America, then. On the streets.
Shit, this wasn’t supposed to be about him.
A gutter coin is a flat chunk of metal that used to be a penny. Or a quarter. Or whatever. And because it got caught in the sewers, or some riverbed, or fell in a garbage disposal, or whatever—whatever reason—everything got gouged up and cut off, or worn down. It wasn’t a penny anymore. It wasn’t anything but a discarded “piece of history,” he’d say. Just some damn piece of metal that you recognized at first glance, I mean you knew what it was, but you couldn’t spend it on a menthol or a bottle of Dos Ex. My father sometimes talked like that.
Clearly I never had that memory. Clearly my father wasn’t so impoverished to live on the streets. And when I first woke up, this whole intro had no connection to the story. It was a creepy, new-house-falling-apart dream where I investigated a domestic complaint of “dumping water” on the road into the neighborhood. So happens after going there, the ground falls out of their basement, I find an old dug-out mine, ancient, and a body laying there. Just a mound of clothes, boots, hat, and whatever remains lay underneath.
Dreams like these are what make me write, give me experiences I wouldn’t have otherwise. It was a bleak dream, unsettling, but not frightening. The body had been there a long time. It’s the whole gutter-penny opening that throws me: as in, how my character, somehow, knew the ending–the body is the gutter-penny, directly connecting the MC to his father’s not-so-distant death–while I remained in the dark even after I woke up. All day long, I thought about it, until I wrote it down and, lo and behold, the meaning came clear.
Like reading a short story for the first time from an author I don’t know. It was even a little gothic in its telling.
So call me crazy when I say I feel people speak to me in dreams. This whole thing is in a vein of writing I’ve adored, but not (until now) in my ability to write. It’s complex because I feel it isn’t mine, and I’m giddy to write it because it’s like some master writer gave me all the visuals–and even the introduction–to make this thing brilliant.
Yet I remain unpublished, so who knows. I might just spend my life walking the paths of a writer, where all my secrets are ignored by the larger audience. I think, for the chance to share these things, it is worth writing.