Big Sky, Blank Paper

July 23, 2019

I don’t feel like writing. Creative writing, I mean – the novels and short stories I write that bring me such pleasure. It’s not writer’s block, at least not how I understand writer’s block. I have plenty of ideas floating around in my head that I’m itching to write down. I’m not avoiding or procrastinating. There are plenty of days when I don’t feel like writing, yet I sit down and do it anyway. This is different. I. Just. Can’t. Do. It.

As I’ve struggled to find my way back to my happy writing place, I read a blog post that helped. It’s titled “Motors” on “Andrew’s View of the Week”. He has a clever writing style using metaphors interspersed with engineering terms. Anyway, I think I’ve run out of creative energy and I need to recharge my batteries.

How do I recharge? People. I’m an extrovert, so social situations energize me. I’m very high energy, and I like new and different stimuli – people, places, food. Cities are filled with energy. So, what better place to recharge than going to two new cities on vacation?

In my last post, I talked about going to Portland. Here, I’ll talk briefly about Seattle and our train journey across country. I was especially looking forward to the train where I’d meet all new people and recharge. But first…

Seattle has hills, not quite San Francisco hills, but big ones! I’m sure we lost weight. We stayed by the Space Needle, but the highlight for me was the Chihuly Glass Garden. All I heard was there were amazing glass sculptures. A perfect description.

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Was I inspired to write? No.

The waterfront tourist area was fun; we had some great seafood. We especially enjoyed Pike Place Market, where we watched them “throw fish” and had the very best clam chowder and seafood chowder at…. Pike Place Chowder! If you go, it’s well worth the wait. And DON’T waste your time and money on an underground tour. That was stupid.

I still wasn’t in the mood to write, but I had high hopes the train journey would alleviate that.

After a couple days in Seattle, we boarded the train for our 50+ hour journey across country. We got a roomette, which is a sleeper room about the size of a dinner booth. Really.

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Meals in the dining car are included in the roomette price, and since there were just two of us, the hostess would seat us with other travelers at the booths for four.

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When we went to dinner the first night, I didn’t feel like talking to strangers, a feeling I attributed to being tired. However, I felt the same way the next day at breakfast. I put on a happy face and was social but I didn’t enjoy it. I wanted to be by myself.

I strive for balance in my life and that includes some solitude, but I’d never felt the need for it on vacation. The new people were draining me. For a description of this feeling from a self-proclaimed introvert, check out Quaint Revival, where Shelley describes how an introvert feels in social situations, an eye-opener for me.

So, there we were on the train with hundreds of strangers in close proximity. And, I admit, we were a bit disappointed by the view. We were in the Great Plains. The flatlands. There’s nothing there except some distant mountains we saw for about 10 minutes.

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I had gone back to the roomette after an energy-draining lunch, while my boyfriend went to the observation car. I decided it was time to write, whether I felt like it or not, and I definitely did not feel it.

I pulled out the small table, and retrieved my writing tablet and pen. My arm felt like dead weight. It was all I could do to lift my arm and rest my wrist on the table.

I stared out the window determined to find some beauty. Gratitude welled up within me for seeing the country in a way I never had before. I continued staring out the window looking for something… anything. And then I looked up.

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It was like being in a snow globe. The sky went on forever. BIG SKY. Images of cowboys and campfires and roundups flooded my brain. The clouds were amazing.

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I saw submarines lined up. I saw a pig relaxing on its back. Go ahead, you can think I’m crazy. None of my friends saw anything other than clouds. (And do submarines even line up???)

I went a little nutty snapping pictures of clouds. And I started writing… not a whole story, just fragments.

Then the rain started, bringing contentment with it.

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The desolation frightened her a bit but the new life she was steaming towards had to be better than the one she had left behind…

What had she done? Where was the town? Her mother had told her repeatedly not to do this, but she was determined. Having grown up in the city, she hadn’t known there was this much unpopulated land. Arrgh. Then a dark-haired man strode through the rail car, his boots clomping. She caught her breath as he tipped his cowboy hat her way revealing bright blue eyes. Maybe this would be okay after all. (yeah, yeah, mostly cliché but it’s a start)

Big Sky country. Montana. I want to go back. Stay on a dude ranch. Ride horses.

North Dakota boasted the bluest sky I’ve ever seen, a sky almost as big as the Montana sky. And then I saw the rainbow. God’s promise. The sight filled me with joy.

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We traveled through a few more states, and I wrote a bit more. By the time we returned home, my batteries were about half charged. I’ll continue to seek out solitude and big nature, and I’m confident I’ll be back in my happy writing place soon.

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Writing and Running

June 11, 2019

Sometimes when I’m mulling over what should happen next in a story, I go running. Getting away from my desk, running outside in the sunshine, I feel free. Free from pressure and constraints and time. Inspiration comes. Ideas flow.

I’m not a distance runner. I run 3 or 4 miles most days and I don’t go very fast. It makes me feel good and helps me stay in shape.

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When I’m lacing up my shoes to go out, I know the ideas will come. They always do. As I run out of my driveway and down my street, I praise God for the beauty of a summer day and the ability to move my limbs. I wave to the neighbors, talk to their dogs, and watch the squirrels skitter about.

I don’t think about anything except how grateful I am for what I’m doing at that moment and what I have in my life. Even on rainy days, I thank God for nourishing nature and thereby nourishing me. The cold days of winter are a little tougher, as my eyes run, my nose drips, and my throat hurts, but I know I’m clearing my mind, working my muscles, and that I’ll be sitting in front of my fireplace soon.

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Let me close this post with something I saw on Twitter. I added the “or running” part.  The only time I don’t feel like I should be doing something else, is when I’m writing… or running.

Have a great day, everyone.


Nature AND Nurture

May 28, 2019

I started writing stories as a child. My first story was about Bennie the Green Bean, and I decided I was going to write children’s books. I eventually majored in Journalism in college. At that time, it never occurred to me to try and make a living writing fiction.

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Photo by Sonja Langford on Unsplash

After more than 20 years working in communications, marketing and public relations, I decided it was time. Time to write my novel. I wasn’t getting any younger. Plus, I had honed my writing skills for years, so knew I could whip out great novels in no time. Ha.

After writing a few days, I began pulling books off my shelves and analyzing them. How much description? How much dialogue? How many characters? Where do you put in the backstory? How do you start the backstory? How many words are in a novel?

 These are just 2 of the many bookshelves in my home office.

I was shocked that I didn’t inherently know these things; after all, I had been a voracious reader my entire life. This was harder than I had expected.

As I wrote, I had more questions. How long are chapters? What point of view should I use? Can I write male characters convincingly? I sought out advice and kept writing.

A few other writers attempting to transition from business writing to fiction writing scoff at my advice-seeking and learning the craft of fiction writing. They’re not going to classes or reading books on craft. They’re writing. They say that’s enough. And maybe it is for them.

Other friends expect me to churn out novels because I’ve been writing my whole life. I know they don’t understand it either. “You’re such a good writer,” they say. “How come your books aren’t published yet?”

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I’ve attended writing conferences, devoured books on plot, description, character development, and more. Recently, I read a book on how to write about monsters by Philip Athans.

Books and conferences are my candy. I soak up the advice and fully engage in the conference sessions, determining what works for me. My friends laugh and their eyes glaze over as I explain the elements that go into creating a scene or writing dialogue. I enthuse endlessly about what I’m learning. I can’t get enough of this stuff. My fiction writing is so much better than when I started out a few years ago. It’s hard to believe how much I’ve learned.

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One of the books I read early in this journey is “On Writing” by Stephen King. He mentions that he is always reading a book on craft. What? Stephen King? I think he is a wonderful storyteller and a gifted writer. When I read that, I thought, “I should do that, too!” That book was published in 2000, so I don’t know if he still does that.

Writing speeches, articles, white papers, strategic plans, press releases and web site copy is not the same as writing fiction. That’s not to say all those years writing don’t help me now; they do, in so many ways.

Of course, I wish I could have sat down and written the great American novel without advice, books, classes or conferences, but it didn’t happen. That’s okay. I’m slowly finding my way. This is an unexpected journey and I am enjoying the ride.

Do you think writing is a talent or a learned skill? What writing resources have you found to help you in your journey?

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