From a post on April 11, 2013:
Lately, with no concrete story ideas, I've been thirsting to write about ghosts... Also, like going around and around the same jogging track, I keep mentally returning to Florence + the Machine's Ceremonials, an album that is just packed with ghosts and ghost stories, whispered and half-understood. Since first listening to it, I've wished I could write a novel that somehow accompanies the album, the way House of Leaves and Poe's Haunted go together. I'm not Flo's sister, though, and I really haven't the foggiest idea what she had in mind when writing the songs on that album, so it's a pretty impossible notion. The songs are just so evocative, of dark hallways and fluttering dresses and the wind through chimes and things half-seen in mirrors. I want to evoke in words and story what's evoked in music there.That is the secret project. It's a story cycle pegged to the twelve songs on Ceremonials. It's not just wild song-tales, though; it has an overarching story about two girls at a boarding school who fall in love with each other but are not meant to be together. Not in life, anyway. Beyond the stories and characters, and even a little bit beyond honoring and echoing the music, the point for me was to experiment in manners both technical and mystical. To learn how to evoke, the same way Florence did, rather than speaking directly.
Unfortunately, I had to halt my work on it when school started. (Schoolwork has become completely overwhelming, and it's actually freaking me out a bit, but that's not what this post is about.) I've drafted ten stories out of twelve, but I know, I know, I'm going to go back and rewrite some of them partially and others totally from scratch. So my work on it isn't just beginning, exactly, but it's hard to know how far along I actually am. Nevertheless, I'm doing it, and I can't hold down my excitement about it.
I used to think this idea was stupid or weird, or that even if I did finish it no one would want to read it. I believe I was wrong on both counts. I've told a small handful of people about it and they have all been enthusiastic, even those who don't know Florence. Ekphrastic art is not an uncommon thing, so it's really not that weird. Although I've never heard of a book tied to an album like this, that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Or that I can't write it. And I finally decided that if no one wanted to read it except me, that was fine, because then I could write a book that I wanted to read, something I made that I could love, instead of making allowances and sacrifices for readability.
Writing this book/story cycle (it's not shaped up to be book-length yet, but I'm pretty sure it will be eventually) has allowed for a series of breakthroughs. Lots of things have been changing in terms of how I think about writing over the past year, but without the secret project, those changes wouldn't have been grounded in anything. The project has helped me believe, genuinely, that there is no writing for others without writing for me. It's helped me trust that I understand syntax well enough to mess around with it intensively and see what happens. It's helped me just not care about writing in ways that are too murky to explain well; of course I still care about writing, very very very deeply, but I'm not wrapped up in what's going to happen to it later to the exclusion of what occurs when it goes on the page.
Toni Morrison says that if you look around for a book you want to read, and it doesn't exist yet, you must write it. I said this to a sculptress friend and she hit me back with the words of one of her teachers: "Just make whatever you want to make." These may seem like laughably idealistic proverbs in terms of paying bills and publishing gatekeepers and how long it takes to do creative work and whatnot, but...my sculptress friend makes these fantastic outdoor installations that you can visit in public city spaces and parks. I'm writing the book I needed and badly wanted to write, and everyone who's heard about it has said I want to read that. Everything this idea has done for me has been good. It helped me seize Fictator power. It forced me to let the hell go. It saved me, this summer, from never writing again. Whatever happens to this project in the world, putting it into the world has been invaluable.
So make whatever you want to make. That's how inspiration ripples from Flo to me, from me to you. Sing out. Write on. Go.
never knew I was a dancer till Delilah showed me how