Lac Green Nord in the Province of Quebec, Canada, is an oasis. And doesn’t this fire look relaxing?
The only thing is that I’m not very good at relaxing, and to be honest when you are the playmate of a five-year-old granddaughter you don’t relax much. Little Maya who wakes up at 6:00 am told me earnestly on the evening the day after we arrived, that it would be a very good thing if I woke up earlier like she did.
But sometimes it’s not about relaxation. It’s more about changing the input. If you keep feeding yourself the same mental diet day after day your creativity starves from lack of proper nourishment. Because I’m a head person (someone who lives more in thought than in the physical world), it is a good thing to change things up and try a sensory diet for a while. On this holiday I had every opportunity to add experiences to my mental diet. I plunged into the water, screamed when I was splashed, slapped Horseflies, whirled on a tube being towed by a boat. I went to a parade and visited family in a care home. I did no writing, not even my morning pages, and very little drawing.
At home now I have so many ideas and plans that I have to calm myself down and take a step back. I know from experience that in this stage of the creative process I will not be happy with anything I do, and everything will go too slow, and soon enough I’ll despair.
Therefore, I will pick the peas and shell them. I’ll write this blog. I’ll make a little careless drawing, and I’ll read the next chapter in The Chronos Project, (my time travel novel) and consider how I can improve it. I’ll go slow.
Give yourself the grace of going slow at times. And you don’t have to be brilliant all the time either (she said, though she finds this hard advice to take).
Oh, and I did make these two scribbles, because, hey, creativity is like a drug. It’s not easy to stop and thankfully stopping isn’t necessary.
As I mentioned a few posts ago, I have a partial manuscript I call The Chronos Project that I plan to revise.
The story is about Anna Wassar, a young ethics enforcer who works at a time-shifting facility, where historians of all sort shift to other time periods to do research in their particular field of interest.
Anna becomes aware that someone is bringing treasures from the past into the future, and that if she doesn’t stop them, the Temporal Ethics Commission will shut down the Chronos Project.
Anna shifts to 1940s Germany in pursuit of her suspect, and things do not go well.
Okay, not a bad premise. Maybe a bit Timecop, but the theme is different and I like it.
A number of years have past since I wrote the first version. Hey, I even tried a second version, and one hundred and twenty thousand words into it I still couldn’t make it work. Time has passed and I am ready to give it another try.
I printed the whole thing and began to read it back to front. To my surprised I have many excellent scenes, and surely I can…but Anna, Anna doesn’t have enough agency, and what about the murder bus and the children at Görden at Brandenburg an der Havel? How am I going to make that all fit?
Never mind. I’ll be systematic. I will separate the story into point of view sections (there are five–OMG, way to many?) and then I will read each section and see if I have a decent character arc for that character and we’ll go from there. Right. That’s a plan.
Days pass and I don’t work. “Nope, will not,” says that recalcitrant brat in my head. “Can’t, can’t, can’t. Won’t! You know what? I don’t really like writing. I don’t want to write, anymore. Heck, I’m retired. I don’t have to do hard work and I won’t. Done. I’m done.”
Except that I begin to wake up dreaming writing. Yes, thoughts in another characters head, third person.
Then this morning in my journal:
Sunday, 3 June, 2018
It was the third of June another sleepy, dusty, delta day
I was out choppin’ cotton and my brother was bailin’ hay*
And I’m there. Yes, in the Mississippi delta, but no, not only there, but where ever the work is hard, where the air smells of fresh-mown hay, where dust lifts off a roadway and hangs in the air, where heat shimmers in the distance of—my daddy’s farm. I’m home.
In an instant I remember others who catch me like that. Stephen King is one. Always, his words make me feel as though I’ve lived them myself. I’m two-hundred and eighty pound, gay Julianne Vernon, in my pickup truck, horse trailer behind, driving down a quiet highway. In the distance I see a car stopped on the roadside, and I know what to do. I’ll stop and lend a hand. It’s what I do, what I’ve always done. It will be my undoing, but I don’t know it yet.
I look over my Facebook feed and I see a post by a printing company. It’s a link to a blog post by Meribeth Deen. Meribeth talks about writing mentors and how we all need one, and maybe if we copy their words they’ll bring us to our words, and—ding, ding, ding.
I know what to do: Read Stephen King’s words, write Stephen’s words, and then write Anna Wassar, just a little, not much, not a great long thesis, just as much as I can see in a one inch frame.
That’s how it works, creativity. One small thing leads to another thing, and still another and these things spiral and gather, swarm, swoop and excite and suddenly you can’t wait to write, to paint, to dance your dance and sing your song.
*In 1967 Bobby Gentry wrote and performed Ode to Billy Joe and I loved that song. Bobby sang it beautifully, but what I loved most was the story. A whole and complete story in the lyrics of a 4 minutes song (it was longer in the original writing). It had everything necessary for story, including a mystery. What were Billy Joe and that girl throwing off the Tallahatchie Bridge?
I write, here, more often about drawing, painting, or some life things, than I do about writing.
I’ve been writing fiction for just over ten years. In that time I’ve learned a great deal. For starters I learned that I hadn’t a clue about writing fiction when I wrote my first novel. I made all the mistakes you’d expect of a first timer. In the second novel I made some of those mistakes and a few more. All during this time I was reading everything I could about the art of writing fiction. I stuffed so many things into my head that I was afraid to hold my pen, for fear of doing it wrong.
One thing about writers, they write. And when they aren’t writing their preferred genre of fiction or non-fiction they’re writing about writing. There is no shortage of writerly tutelage on the internet or in book stores. I would like to say I read them all, but that’s not possible. A new blog or book on writing pops up every day.
There is a lot to know about writing fiction, just as there is a lot to know about painting figures, but at some point its necessary to quiet down all those words–often competing ‘you should’ words–you’ve read. It’s time to put them on the back burner and figure out what you think. That’s what I’m doing and I have nothing to tell people about writing that someone else hasn’t already said better.
I’m currently revising a novella entitled Hannah’s Hearing. It’s a story of an older woman who beset, as many elderly are with issues of failure, forgets to live large and enjoy life. That is until the man in the red fedora shows up in her bedroom and everything changes.
Aside from revising and drawing, I’ve been doing a lot of reading. In particular I’ve been trying to read books that will expand my knowledge and help me think. A moment on social media makes you aware that thinking is often left behind.
Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment Now, is an excellent read and very encouraging, whether you agree with all Pinker’s premises or not. Alan Jacob’s, How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds wasn’t as much help as I thought it might be, but I did learn that we tend to lump people into camps or tribes. Lumping similar things and experiences is natural and useful, probably even necessary, but we’re often wrong, and in the process we create an ‘us and them’ ethos.
In fiction, I’ve somehow missed Michael Connelly’s The Wrong Side of Goodbye, so I’m listening to the audio version of that while I draw.
Though I’m offering Amazon links, I want you to know your local bookstore deserves support and your library is a wonderful place. For instance I borrowed the audio book by Connelly from our local library through an app called Libby. Check it out.
What about you? What are you reading or writing?
Oh, and you’re wondering about the guy in black above? A bit of eye candy, nothing more.