Trusting Left Field

Connecting with the writer within at times demands that we open ourselves to the unknown. We must learn to trust “left field,” the part of writing that cannot be explained by any writing technique. Something from left field comes unexpectedly and may not seem to make sense. It reminds us that as creative writers, we are NOT in control. We must learn to step aside, a humble action to let the writing create its own path.

Beginning my writing career by way of a prophetic dream of my father in 1995, was the first clue that the invisible world was about to demonstrate its power in my life. The spiral staircase that climbed into the heavens in my dream became the focus of my current memoir, and its many rungs have led me onward to my destiny as a writer.

As I wrote my first novel, the spark from within caused me to move out of the way as an image emerged from the past. After years of research and interviews to tell the story of a Phoenix family who journeys to the Vietnam Memorial Wall to honor the young soldier they loved, I still had no idea how to begin the novel. One night I felt I had to do something with my hands, and unskilled at painting or other visual arts, I simply crumbled a piece of paper to produce a “flower.” As I gazed at my paper creation, powerful words came to my mind: It’s the passion flower your mom had when you were a kid. The novel chose to begin with that childhood image and the first words almost wrote themselves: The passion vine bloomed until late November the year Jesse died. As soon as I wrote the opening sentence, the whole novel opened up to me like the elegant blooms of the passion flower, daring me to enjoy the thrill of trusting left field and charting a course for the novel I could have never imagined.

The beginning of my novel, If I Die in Juárez, led me to another decision to trust left field. Years of research into the “crime of the century,” had produced a story built solidly on history and facts, yet I could find no way to begin the work. Looking at a photo of my sister, Rosie, which I have at my desk, I simply asked her, as my writing muse, for help. I closed my eyes, and wrote: Evita dreamed of peace once as child. It appeared to her as a huge gust of wind rushing in through an open door surprising her with its urgency and power. Evita’s dream opened the novel with hope and a sense that the dark history of Juárez would not crush her desire for peace.

My advice for all writers is to learn to trust left field. You will not be disappointed, and will reap astonishing benefits that will fill your readers with wonder and delight.