Write What You Don’t Know, Part Two
One of my earliest mentors was a writer named Paul Rink. (He’s on pages 111 and 112 in The War of Art.)
Before I knew him, Paul lived in Big Sur. This was during the time when Henry Miller was a major personality there. Their families lived on Partington Ridge. Every morning Paul used to shepherd the children of the neighborhood down to the school bus stop on Highway One. He stayed with them till the bus came.
To pass the time, Paul had a game he played with the kids (You can read about this in Henry Miller’s Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch.) Paul would tell them a story that carried on from day to day. He made up the plot on the spot. Paul would get his hero into unbearable, cliff-hanging fixes. The deal with the kids was that if at any time they couldn’t stand the suspense, they could call out the magic word—“Inchconnecticut!”—and that would save the hero.
Paul would surreptitiously glance up the highway till he saw the school bus approaching. Then he would crank up the suspense so that the kids were just about to cry out, “Inchconnecticut!” (They didn’t want to, of course, because that would end the story for the day.) Then at the last excruciating moment, Paul would say, “Ah, here’s the bus. We’ll pick up the tale tomorrow.”
The kids would all groan. But they couldn’t wait for the next day to get back to the saga.
(In Big Sur, Henry Miller has “Inchconnecticut” as two words. Not so! Paul declares it was always one.)
All this is long way of saying again
Write what you don’t know.
Paul didn’t know what was coming next in his story. He didn’t lie awake the night before plotting out the tale for the next day.
He winged it.
Paul entered that magical realm wherein dwell improv comedians, off-the-cuff banquet speakers … and you and me.
Writers of fiction.
One other entity abides in this favored province.
I asked Paul if he every ran out of hair-raising predicaments to get his bus stop characters into.
“Never,” he said. “Some twist would always occur to me.”
When George R.R. Martin started with Daenerys Targaryen, he had no idea who she would turn out to be or what adventures she would have. How could he? There was no Daenerys Targaryen.
What did he do?
He made it up.
He wrote what he didn’t know.
And, sure enough, from some mysterious quadrant of the imagination, from some dimension of reality that has nothing to do with reason or logic or rationality, a brilliant, charming, scary, funny, heart-stopping saga unfolded.
If George R.R. can do it, so can you and I. (As George R.R. would be the first to testify.)
The field is identical for us as it is for him.
The goddess will fill our outstretched palms just as she filled his.
All we have to do is show up and
Write what we don’t know.