"For we walk by faith, not by sight." ~ 2 Corinthians 5:7
I went to the Egyptian Galleries today at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I've been doing a little bit of fiction writing and needed to collect some research on Egypt. I suppose I could have could just looked it up on-line though it was a gorgeous day, I wanted to walk through the park, and there is not substitute for seeing the treasures of Egypt right in front of us.
The Egyptian Galleries are well-known as one of the favorite attractions for kids to the Met. The fiction piece I'm writing is actually for a young adult audience so I must admit that a little of my motivation was some good eaves dropping. Kids, of course, were fascinated by the mummies. "There's a dead person in there?" I heard numerous times. Followed invariable by the parents saying "yes" and the kids responding "cool". (For the record, that was my response in my mind, too.) They also loved the myriad of figurines, depictions of dogs, and all the fancy gold jewelry that literally glowed within the display cases. I easily saw a dozen kids striking a pose that matches the many Egyptian etchings that lined the walls of the galleries. I wanted to do that too, though I knew it wouldn't be as endearing an act for a 33 year old as it is for a 10 year old, so I held myself back.
To write fiction, we have to hang out with our characters, walk around with them, see the world through their eyes as well as our own. In this action, there are bits of dialogue that surface. We learn about the experiences of our characters the same way we get to know a new friend or someone we've just started dating. A little at a time, we learn where they've been, what they've seen, and where they hope their lives will go. I just walk beside them silently, recording everything.
There's a lot of faith involved in writing fiction. At the top of a blank page, we're never quite sure where we'll end up by the time we reach the bottom of that page. We have to be generous and patient and let the story unfold naturally, taking comfort that it will go exactly the way it's supposed to. It's a mystical process.
Our lives are kind of like fiction writing, too. We might have some kind of basic outline for what we'd like to do and where we'd like to go, though the details of how we color in the lines is largely spontaneous. We meet new and interesting characters along the way, we veer off in many different directions, take advantage of one opportunity and then pass on another. We travel, we experience, we remain open to things that are new and strange and beautiful. Yes, the more I think about it, the more I see that living life really is exactly like writing fiction. We fumble around in the dark, not knowing exactly what is in front of us, forging ahead with only the faith and belief that the road we're on is exactly where we are meant to be. All we must do is be present. The story, and our very lives, will unfold around us.