Blogs by Bamboo Ridge writers and members.

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Da Conversation: Reflecting on Remains

Wednesday, August 12, 2015 5:33 AM

During the last month, while sorting through my heap of legal pads, notebooks, scrap papers, and printouts, I couldn’t help but reflect on the meat of the writing process. The fodder for further creativity that is cut out, revised, or refined. If you’re like me, it sometimes makes its way into other stories. As a rule of thumb, I never throw out anything related to a piece of writing that I’m working on, even if it’s just a sentence or a ramble, and so I have files and folders dedicated to work that I haven’t looked at in years. But when I find that I’m struggling to write a scene or a piece of exposition, I always consult the scraps to see if there’s something that could be put to better use, with often surprising results. It reminds me that writing is about discovery. That you might approach the page with an idea, but it isn’t until you actually begin to write it out that you discover what the story is really about, or in this case, that the story was with you all along.

Looking through the piles, I was also reminded that writing is about research as well, and that in addition to my old drafts and false starts, I have amassed leaves of backstory and investigation that I’ve conducted over the years. For my novel, ‘Between Sky and Sea: A Family’s Struggle,’ my notebooks are filled with fictional biographies, timelines, significant events left in the margins, and even physical character sketches. There are also stacks of research into the social, political, and cultural complications that my novel engages with, and field notes from conversations with friends, family, and those who are struggling with addiction that I used to get a better sense of the characters that I was writing. Although approaches may differ, I think that we all conduct research in our own ways and that the lives that we create are as much imagined constructs, as they are well-informed composites, with observation and experience shaping how they are brought to life.

Finally, these discarded bits also remind me that although “write what you know” is a good place to start, it’s important to remember that we rarely know much of anything, that is, our knowledge is rarely our own. The narratives that we construct are a result of our efforts, but we are also indebted to others. Creatively, Ian MacMillan, Rodney Morales, Mark Panek, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Eric Chock, Darrell Lum, and a multitude more have influenced me. There are also the professors, mentors, and teachers such as Craig Howes, Cristina Bacchilega, ku?ualoha ho?omanawanui, Morgan Blair, Frank Stewart, Uzma Khan, Jody Helfand, and several others that I am grateful to have been taught by and to have notes from. Looking to my shelves, there is also a long list of scholars, including Mary Kawena Pukui, Antonio Gramsci, and Karl Marx, that have informed my writing and that are scattered across the years. Personally, my wife, my father-in-law, and other members of my immediate and extended family have contributed as well. It is impossible to account for everyone who influences us, but I think what matters most is the understanding that authorship is a result of more than just “I,” regardless of genre.

When I look through my unkempt archives, I cannot help but see more than just what’s left behind, I see what still remains in the stories that I’ve written and that I’m writing, but tell me, what do you see in your own?

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