What Happens Next? Inch Forward in the Dark, by Sion Dayson
Working on my first novel, I sometimes felt like I was stumbling through a large, strange house without the benefit of light. Maybe a storm cut the power or faulty wiring flipped the switch. Whatever the reason, I was in the midst of a blackout, trying to draw a blueprint of a place I had never been.
My advisor Ellen Lesser had a simple suggestion for combating the panic of not knowing where I was heading in my writing: inch forward in the dark.
The directive resonated.
I connected it to my idea of the foreign house. Everything was already there to be discovered; I just couldn’t see it yet. So I’d run my hands along the walls, stretch my arms out in front of me, take tiny steps. I inched forward in the dark. I learned there was a chair in the middle of the room, a desk with knick-knacks in the corner. What was this? Perhaps family portraits on the mantle?
After awhile I found a light switch. Suddenly an entire room was visible. It looked different than what I’d pictured, yet it was also so clear. Of course, this is the kitchen, I might say. Utensils on the drying rack, chipped plates, a leaking sink I’d heard when the lights were out--though I’d been unsure of its source.
But the hallway remained dark. The bedroom, the den. So I just kept mapping the house (the story) until every lamp was lit. Warm light seeped from each window. Slowly, I started making myself at home.
Sion Dayson will graduate in July 2011 with an MFA in Fiction Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her work has appeared in Smokelong Quarterly, a National Book Foundation anthology, and the volume "Strangers in Paris," among other venues. She is currently working on her first novel. If you have any questions about her post or the MFA program at Vermont College, you can contact Sion directly at email@example.com. Feel free to visit her blog paris (im)perfect for information on her writing journey and other adventures in the City of Light.