When “a path lit by words” popped into my mind, it sounded ungrammatical, but exactly right to describe this journey I’m on. Words, always words—learning to speak them, then read them, and finally, write them creatively—have fascinated me, inspired me, and given me purpose. They’ve been a constant, even when I’ve denied that this writer’s path is the right one for me.
My first fanciful image of “a path lit by words” featured lanterns, glowing warm and mellow on wrought iron posts, and soft amber path lights set among cobblestones. Lately, another image has claimed right of way–times when a colleague, family member, or trusted friend blurted words so true that they blinked like neon inside my head. Today’s word is one of those. It starred in a thoughtful rejection I received yesterday from a literary agent who had requested my full manuscript. She was “intrigued by the premise” but there were “way too many coincidences.” It was, in short, implausible.
I zombied through twenty-four hours, and this morning I forwarded the agent’s email to my writer friends. “See!” I said. “This is what candid feedback looks like.”
Somewhere between Martha’s never-say-die advice (So what? Try the small presses) and Stephanie’s encouragement (That agent said you’re a talented writer!), a light bulb went off: I held back on this book. I didn’t commit.
Shifting Sands grew from a spontaneous vision during my morning meditation. I awoke in a painting when the artist’s brush touched my shoulder. “That tickles,” I told him and we started to talk. Implausible? Of course–as are the conversations between my protagonist, Jamie, and the young girl who appears on his canvas just when he needs her. When he’s most desperate, grieving the loss of his mentor and guardian, resentful of a decades-old slight, awash in doubt that his talent is real, and unable to paint, weeks away from a last chance show.
Do I believe that mystical forces would choose that moment to cause Jamie to paint a girl on a beach who unlocks his memory? Would they lead him to clues that help him resolve the secret that’s destroying his life? Absolutely. But I shied away from saying so because it might seem implausible. I soft-pedaled the woo-woo stuff. And now–Eureka!–I know what to do.
A single word can light our way–as a spark of imagination, a flash of brilliance, or, in this case, a ray of hope.