I was showing KP around a couple nights ago; we met at Allied Media Conference and she’s in town for one more week, working on a project about the ’67 Rebellion. Her mental map of Detroit, she said on our way to dinner, was limited to just the area of Midtown where she’s staying and working. She’s from Portland, lives in New York, is traveling all over, and in the car we talked about making friends in a new place – how certain individuals can reveal parts of a city to you, as though they were the keys to locked rooms (or entire wings) of a large and empty house.
So of course at dinner we run into RJ at Yemen Cafe, RJ who has been one of those keys for me in Detroit. He tells us he’s headed to MC’s studio in the Russell Industrial Complex because some of musician friends are having a jam session. He invites us to come. From there, we go to a place in Dearborn for juice and smoothies and end up talking till two in the morning about MC’s love life and someone RJ had vouched for but who then let him down. At a different time in my life I would’ve called it a classic New York night – running into friends, going from one place to the next, none of it planned … But now I see it’s not unique to that specific city. Has more to do with the freshness of a place and a willingness let it surprise you.
I’ve also, this week, come to remember how encouraging it is for me to read fiction while I’m writing fiction. I was on a biography and buddhism kick for a while, but now I’m back to novels, and find that I’m that much more motivated to sit and write. In some ways it’s the hyper-competitive part of me who thinks, Hey, I could write this – or something like this – too. But (and this may seem obvious to you) this kind of reading also reveals the assumptions I’m making in my own writing and storytelling. The things I didn’t realize were possible. These novels aren’t much different from those friends in a city, the keys to rooms I didn’t know were there. They help me see a bigger house than I’d first imagined.
I’m still discovering how this next book wants to be written. So far it’s involved a lot more research, a lot more reading – both non-fiction, and now, fiction – than before. Like, a surprising amount more. It’s new and kind of scary, but I’m going with it.