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Maps and other references

First, a correction. I was looking for an entirely different quotation in my commonplace book and finally found the one about the work of art. It was actually Charles Johnson who said, “In short, the only proper response to a work of art that deeply moves one is another work of art created as a reply.” This from an interview with William R. Nash in New England Review, Spring 1998.

Which reminds me of Pete Seeger, who, as a preface to a song on his album with Arlo Guthrie Together in Concert, said, “Plagiarism is basic to all culture.”

But I did not find what I was looking for. That’s a problem. Sometimes the ideas that stick in my mind from my reading are not the lines I choose to copy out. What I wanted was something that Tolkien said that ran, as I recall, more or less along the lines of, “All adventure stories should begin with a map.” I did find this quote, “One writes such a story not out of the leaves of trees still to be observed, not by means of botany and soil-science; but it grows like a seed in the dark out of the leaf-mould of the mind; out of all that has been thought or seen or read, that has long been forgotten, descending into the deeps.” (from Inventing the Middle Ages)

Back to the map. I drew one yesterday, or the draft of one. I sketched in the shape of the forest and some of the locations for events that already occurred. And in the blank space around the edges, I began to draw the future. Landscapes imply inhabitants, which in turn imply encounters for those who traverse the country. Both the journey and the interactions are, essentially, plot. I now know, more or less, what direction my story will take.

I have my usual fears of the journey. We all know what happened when the Fellowship tried to go over the mountains: they had to go back and then descend under the mountains where there was seriously scary stuff. The map is about possibilities, not certainties. There is no AAA for the creative process.

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