The moment comes when a character does or says something you hadn't thought about. At that moment he's alive and you leave it to him. (Graham Greene, Advice to Writers)
No, I'm not at that point yet. But the words are coming quicker...I can close my eyes and pull the world of my story around me, see the events unfold, hear the sounds, smell the smells. I'm not quite a mere spectator, observing the story as it unfolds before my eyes, but I'm getting closer and closer to that point.
It takes practice stepping in and out of a story. I'd much prefer to have a huge chunk of uninterrupted time to just dive in and walk around (remember Burt and Mary Poppins diving into Burt's sidewalk chalk picture? I love the very idea of that!) but my reality is I need to work, not write, for huge chunks of time; I can only spend small sessions in my story - mostly in the evening when my brain is already numb from spending hours in front of a computer. It helps to remember that most of the successful writers first wrote in snatches of stolen time, surrounded by family and noise, or in the quiet hours before their day really started, writing rather than sleeping. It was only after they succeeded that they won the luxury of writing in solitude. And sleeping.
I admit I'm no longer willing to give up much sleep for my story. Cleaning the house? Cooking? Doing the laundry? Yes. Sleep? No.
Thank goodness my teacher is turning out to be pretty understanding. She extended my deadline for the first chapter, knowing I was headed out of town this past weekend. I finally finished it tonight - the first, most important chapter is officially written, all 1075 words of it. Even in this chapter I could see my character stirring, giving subtle hints about where the story should go. I think by this weekend he'll be taking over and together we'll be able to meet the next assignment deadline - three more chapters by next weekend! I think he - I mean I - can do it...