Once, in a reverie, I listened to the PJ Harvey song “Grow Grow Grow.”
I sowed a seed
Underneath the oak tree
I trod it in
With my boots I trampled it down
I pictured a woman trying to plant an apple seed under an oak tree. It was winter and the ground was too hard. I kept going back to that image and asking myself what more I knew about it. Early on I realized that she was trying to plant the seed to displace some of the grief she felt after having an abortion. I am strongly pro-choice but I had never really tackled the issue in my fiction before. I worried that whatever feelings my character had would about her abortion would alienate readers. And I certainly didn’t want to seem anti-choice by writing about a woman who is experiencing a barren, awful feeling afterwards. It was good for me to go through that questioning, though, because it helped me to learn how to consciously remove my ego from my process and just write the story that was in front of me.
I tried to write the story and had a couple clunky attempts and wrote one paragraph on an airplane that I liked. One night, I was supposed to have a date at a bar with someone I’d met online. I had told him to look for a redhead in a gold dress who would probably be typing on a laptop. He never showed, but did write later to claim he had been there but just couldn’t pick me out. (And the bar was small and pretty empty!) It was just as well, though, because while I waited I was able to tap into this story and write most of what was more or less the final draft.