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?

SIMPLE PLEASURES | Empty Notebooks

Still on a break, but look what I bought yesterday. Nothing like my brother-in-law’s Ferrari for fabuloso consumerism, but I bet writers out there can relate to this: These old-school notebooks fill me with pleasure and excitement about the near future when I’m not on break anymore, when I’m developing two fiction ideas that have been percolating for awhile (hence, two notebooks), and when I’m getting down-and-dirty with words.

Blank pages don’t scare me; they fill me with anticipation and wonder and the feeling of creativity burbling below the surface. I love empty notebooks! Especially when they’re groovy in a classic or modern or any old way…

Idea Basket

I’m about 120 pages into my first draft, and this week I felt the need to regroup. So, I read, revised and cut what I could so far, wrote scene ideas down on index cards, and generally got a grip on where I am and what comes next.

ideabasket1.jpgAs I was reading and marking my pages, I got to thinking that I’m in the midst of my own creative process, and I don’t know where my ideas come from most of the time. The imagination is a beautiful thing.

However, that said, sometimes the old imagination needs a boost. That’s why I have an idea basket.

I bought a basket because I’m not organized enough to maintain an organizer. I jot tidbits that grab my interest onto the closest paper scraps (napkins, envelopes, and so on) and drop the scraps into the basket. Ta-da, instant filing system for the organizationally impaired.

Its presence is as reassuring as my favorite pillow, and it has come to my rescue once so far. Last summer I wrote a short story for a collection that will receive national attention when it’s eventually published. I thought my story was pretty damned good if I did say so myself. Only, it wasn’t.

Talk about feeling deflated and desperate. I had to start fresh with deadline looming. But what the hell was I supposed to write now? I’d blown my imaginative wad for the moment. Soooo, to the idea basket I turned.

In it, I re-discovered a gruesome little fact that I’d copied from a book a few years previously. It was perfect, and I knew it was perfect because my brain opened up again — synapses firing away. I felt them.

My basket is a keeper, but it’s for emergencies only. For the most part, regrouping as I did this week is enough to replenish my imagination-battery.