Corner Post: The Window Between

When writing projects come to an end, step back and recharge.  Allow yourself to write short, incomplete things, the fragments that help you find the voice of your next narrative. And write just to stay connected to words. But also recharge by reading and reconnecting to the world around you.

Reading, of course, connects us with words, too.  But there is a difference when reading while working on a story—your own words have to be at the forefront.  What is read by other writers remains a background whisper as to not overtake the voice of the narrative you are making.  But after stepping back, the story done, then the words of other writers become louder.

Likewise, the world becomes louder with its fragments.  You may or may not choose to write down those pieces of conservation offered up in store aisles, when people who haven’t seen each other in forever, stop to talk about families—who’s died, who’s gotten married, whose nephew has just been born.  Always these conversations seem to circle around the aftermath of some sadness or joy, when a person reflects by talking with someone else in a public space.  For the moment I pass these people by, I am part of that space, too.  And that’s part of it—allowing yourself to be drawn into the world of people you don’t even know.  Or once outside, the rain that keeps coming too cold this time of year—to let that rain sting you a little.

The truth is, most will be forgotten.  The point is not to hold on to what you experience, but to pass through and let the world pass over and through you like the air through an open window, to be felt and then gone.

Time tends to move more slowly in this space, which in turn works as a counter against the speed we’ve come to expect in our interactions.  That slowness gives pause, amplifies.  But also, different speeds of time are important to know because they help shape the way we write time in fiction.

When you are on your next project, there will be the traces from the time you spent recharging, taking in fragments. But those traces will be nothing that you thought a few weeks ago they might become.  I often think about how all the words we encounter, whether something we have given a name to—like the color of the sky or something we’ve overheard or read—how all these words get layered atop each other, stacked so high in our heads, they become impossible to separate out—how they were spoken or read off a page, or fell to us as rain, cadenced, each in its own dialect, and how from the top of that stack, the words there fall down into the other words over and over.

James Braziel

About James Braziel

James Braziel is the author of the novels Birmingham, 35 Miles and Snakeskin Road. His work has appeared in journals and newspapers including the New York Times. Currently, he teaches creative writing at the University of Alabama, Birmingham.