It’s been a while since I have posted, and not because my pals aren’t contributing.
So here we go. A few things from the amazing Cheryl and Brenda.
Last week, we had a party for my daughter’s 3rd birthday.
She talked about that party for weeks beforehand. Every morning, the first question she would ask is, “Is it my birthday? Is everyone coming to see my birthday?”
If I was writing this situation into a novel, there’s a couple of ways I could have written the ending of this situation. Maybe her birthday comes and everything, from the cake to the decorations to the presents, goes wrong but she’s happy just to spend time with family. Or maybe a freak snow storm prevents anyone from coming and she sits at the window, waiting and crying. Or maybe everything is perfect and it’s a memory she’ll cherish forever.
But what actually happened?
She walked in, saw all the family and friends and decorations, then ran and hid in her room for over an hour.
We finally convinced her to come out to open presents, but only if she could wear a blanket over her head. Which she did.
Do you see how contrived all of my endings were in comparison? None of them had that human touch. Real people are so complicated and confusing. The things we think we want and the things we think we can do are so different from reality.
Our characters need to surprise us. They need to jump out and be themselves. We can’t force them to do things or be someone they don’t want to be.
I have an app on my phone called Timehop. Every day it tells me what I’ve posted on social media on that day in past years.
Today I got a notification. Six years ago today, I announced that I had finished the first draft of my novel.
And what do I have to show for it? A published book? A contract with an agent? A finished, ready product?
No. None of it. I have nothing to show for it except a few notes that add up to, “I basically need to change everything because it all sucks.”
Every time I look at that novel, I get overwhelmed. First drafts are easy. Polishing is hard.
Will I ever finish it? I don’t know. I hope so.
Do you have any eternal works in process? Do you have any that stumped you for awhile but eventually finished?
And Dear Brenda:
The humorist and poet Phyllis McGinley periodically crops up in my brain. A family of my second cousins, like my own parents, were from Ogden, Utah. McGinley was born in Ontario, Oregon, but moved from there to a ranch in Colorado when she was only three months old. At age 11, with the death of her father, her family moved to Utah and lived in Ogden with a widowed aunt. Among other adventures, she studied musical theater at the U of U. Somewhere between the U and Ogden, she and my second cousins’ mother became friends.
My own mother loved reading the Ladies Home Journal and The New Yorker, and always had subscriptions to both. Whenever she found a Phyllis McGinley poem, I would be sure to read it as well. They were generally light, fun, easy to read and entertaining. McGinley became the first writer to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for a collection of light verse: “Times Three.”
So here’s just a tidbit from McGinley, so you get the flavor which was inherent in her children’s books, light poetry, and — I suspect — her life:
Oh, shun, lad, the life of an author.
It’s nothing but worry and waste.
Avoid that utensil,
The laboring pencil,
And pick up the scissors and paste.
So you’re taking a walk. Or a shower. Or a nap. And you have this GREAT idea for a new story. Or for your WIP. Or for a poem. When you stop walking, or showering, or napping, can you still remember the great idea? With clarity? With the same jolt of electricity as when you first thought of it, only moments (or minutes) ago? Did you write it down right away? If so, did it have the impact you thought it would? Or had it changed?
Well, guess what? YOU have changed. From what you were moments or minutes ago. Don’t grip the idea with an iron fist and choke it to death. Maybe that poem you thought of in the shower was really supposed to be a personal essay. Or that paragraph you were struggling with in your WIP last night. Sit down. Clear your mind. Think wonderful thoughts, and whatever they are, start writing THEM down. They won’t be the same as during your walk. They may be more alive than the thoughts from your nap. Let them be what they’re MEANT to be NOW, not what you WISH you’d had a pen to jot them down as you walked. Or, next time, take a notebook and pen on your walk.
Girls, I love you both, Thank you for sending pieces even when I have let life stop me from blogging.