I’m Skittish

I think Mr. Greenie is feeling a little skittish too.

I’ve been meaning to write a couple of blog posts for over a week now. I wanted to plug a local novelist, Naseem Rahka, whose debut novel, The Crying Tree, just won the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association award.

I also wanted to write a post about the first annual Terroir Creative Writers Conference held in McVinnville. For non-Oregonians, McVinnville is a sweet little town in the heart of wine country, about 90 minutes from Portland. The word “terroir” is a winemaking term, not, alas, “terror” + “noir.”

Yet another novel idea preoccupies me. The air-fairy kind of preoccupation that involves a list of everything that interests me right now and a lot of nonfiction reading. Going from one topic to another, letting my mind wander in an imaginative way…Letting the subconscious juices burble…

But enough of that already. Last week I forced myself to get concrete. It’s one thing to amble around in the land of, Oh man, I’d like to write a story that incorporates x and centers around y — quite another thing to actually have a story idea.

So, last Monday, I opened a Word document. I wrote, “I want to write a story about (insert air-fairy inkling here)” and spent the week asking myself a million questions. By Friday, I had almost two pages of particulars (character names, location, central plotline, some backstory, an ending that will probably change but that’s okay).


I’m skittish. The last couple of novel ideas haven’t panned out. I almost have a complex! Second-guessing myself, perhaps, or, worse yet, trying too hard. By which I mean, trying too hard to write something that will for-sure get me published (as if there’s ever a “for-sure”).

This time around I’m trying to listen to my body for those “a-ha” moments that might indicate that I’m onto something worthwhile idea-wise. And I’m trying not to dismiss the fact that my idea seems…well…too outlandish — maybe even stupid?

But what is too outlandish these days? And what’s stupid anyhow? I don’t even know what I mean by that word when I use it. Must be my fear talking, right?

My Dull Memorial Day Weekend

This photo represents the most exciting event of this weekend. Epiphany! I can pull out a sheet of Reynolds Wrap without tipping the whole roll out of the box! Let’s be honest, how many of us have noticed this wee note on the end of the box?

Mostly, I’m working this holiday weekend. I’m “outlining” (quoted because my version of outlining is a little loose) the next scenes on my grand march toward “The End.” Mostly, this means a lot of brainstorming and imagining of the scenes. I find this part of the process (not that I engage in it much) tedious. I’m currently thinking through a scene titled “Danny Talks to Shamus.” Wow, exciting; no wonder I’m writing this post instead.

Tomorrow, I get back to the actual writing while millions of people bar-b-que and camp and welcome in the summer. It helps that it’s raining around here.

But lest you feel sorry for me, don’t. Yesterday I worked then hung out all afternoon and evening with friends. Even saw an old buddy play with his acoustic band. Will I go see that new Indiana Jones movie as previously mentioned? Doubtful now. I hear it sucks.


What-Ifs and Creative Naps

Last weekend I had an epiphany about the scene that will usher in my story’s resolution. I worked all afternoon for that darned epiphany. And thank goodness, because I’d been writing in fits and starts for a good three weeks, stymied by a lack of vision.

Desperate times called for desperate measures. I reluctantly employed the what-if brainstorming strategy. I say “reluctantly” because I first witnessed this technique at a writers workshop, and it struck me as lame. It didn’t help that the workshop facilitators were snide and sometimes just plain mean — a schtick meant to be funny but that left me cold. Until last weekend, I had obstinately refused to play the what-if game.

I jotted every cockamamie idea that popped into my head and forced myself to what-if my way past random nonsense. “Okay, back to the what-ifs. What if…?” After awhile, a deceptively simple thought arose: a surprise action from an unlikely character. Seemed so obvious I wondered why I hadn’t thought of it before.

So, good, but I still wasn’t THAT clear. I needed a visual. All I had was a maddened man floating in space. About then, I decided that a wee creative nap was in order.

I set myself to drifting in a conscious way. (Not that I didn’t fall asleep also — delicious!) Low and behold, a strange thing happened; the perfect scenic image drifted into my head.

I’m not a big believer in waiting for inspiration. Sometimes it arrives on its own, true, but more often it needs a little push by way of mind games that get me out of my own way.