Writing is a journey. Get lost.

I’ve spent my mornings this week on the road, returning early council minute books to some of the towns scattered around our county.*

Many of the city halls I visited are small, storefront affairs tucked away on residential streets with only a flag or tiny sign to distinguish them—which meant that even armed with Mapquest directions and a few past visits, I felt a little lost the entire time, as if I’d just missed a turn or was about to miss a turn.

But that was okay.  I’m used to it. For most of my life, I’ve had a terrible sense of direction,**or maybe only terrible anxiety about my sense of direction, but either way, it feels the same.

I’ve learned to give myself extra time when I travel to an unknown—or sketchily known—location, so I can get lost and found without worrying about being late.  Because I hate being late—and I mean loathe it on a pathological scale—far more than I hate being lost.

I’ve given myself permission to pull over, check the map against local landmarks, throw myself on the mercy of kind pedestrians, calm down, and figure out whether I need to move on, backtrack, rearrange my itinerary,*** or if I’ve actually stopped right in front of my destination.^

Anyone else sense an analogy coming on?  Knew you would.

If writing is a journey—and there seems to be a consensus of sorts on this—then at some point(s), even those of us who prefer to travel without maps are gonna worry about being lost.  Sometimes we’re right and we need to find our way back or call for help.

But maybe we’re taking an unscheduled side trip.  Maybe we’ve reached the right place at the wrong time and need to work on our timelines.  And sometimes we’ve arrived at exactly the place we need to be.

I know the moral of all this is obvious, but I’m going to say it anyway.

Keep driving.  And for heaven’s sake, record the trip.^^
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* Our library won a grant to have our earliest city and county minutes microfilmed and asked all the other incorporated municipalities if they wanted in, at no charge. Yes, I’m excited—that’s a hundred years of county history preserved and better, safer access (from the POV of the original items) for researchers.

** Mom maintains that this is because I read in the car so much as a kid.  If I’d pulled my nose out of the books long enough to pay attention to what was outside my window, I wouldn’t have been starting from ignorant scratch after I got my license.  This, by the way, is coming from a woman who prefers East and West to Right and Left, and has trouble navigating in my town because “the river is going in the wrong direction.”  Perhaps denial is also hereditary . . .

*** The only downside to extra travel time is not getting lost.  It was either wait forty minutes for the clerk to arrive or move on to the next place and come through again on my way back.  Worked fine.

^Which on Tuesday looked exactly like a renovated two-car garage, for good reason.

^^And make back-up copies.  And blog about the flat tires and how you changed them in the rain.  And you might send the occasional postcard to your family and friends, too—they worry.

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Writing≠Work?

I’m notoriously erratic about checking my voice mail, since  I leave it on vibrate  and in my desk during work hours.*

Yesterday afternoon, I had four messages, all from the same number.  The length of time between calls was inversely proportionate to the impatience of the caller:

“This is Sunny’s Pre-K room mother.  I was hoping you could help out with the book sale this Friday between two and four.   Please give me a call as soon as you can!”

“Ms. Wesson, this is Sunny’s room mother.  I’m calling about the book sale at the school.  Please call me.”

“Ms. Wesson, this is Sunny’s room mother.  I hope your voice mail is working—I need to know if you can help out with the book sale Friday.  Please call as soon as you get this.” 

“This is Sunny’s room mother.  It would be great if you would return my call.”

Dealing with a roomful of toddlers and a call list of reluctant parents wouldn’t  bliss me out either, so I gave her the benefit of the doubt, checked Friday’s schedule, groaned, and called her. 

 “This is Sarah, Sunny’s mom,” I said. “I’m afraid I can’t volunteer on Friday, but if there’s any other day this wee–” 

“Not even for an hour?  We really need someone to fill in.”

“I’m sorry, I’m working.”

“You couldn’t reschedule?  It’s our biggest fundraiser this semester.”

“Um, I would if I could, but there’s really no way.”

“You can’t spare an hour from your day?  For the kids?”

Good mercy, lady.  “I’m sorry, but I’m at the downtown library on Friday and we’re already down two people.  There’s no one to cover for me.”

“Oh, you’re a library volunteer?  Because I’m sure they’d understand–”

“No, I’m a librarian.  And if someone could trade, I’d be glad to—” 

“Oh!  Oh, I’m so sorry.  I didn’t know you worked.  Someone told me you were a writer.”

Holy—Bleepin’—Cow

I’m not often at a loss for words, but that did it.

Anyone have any I could borrow for the next time?  Keeping in mind that my precious child spends a lot of time with this woman?

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*Lecturing  patrons about turning off their ringtones, please, isn’t quite as effective when accompanied by a chorus of bleeps from the staff area.

Choosing our own adventures

Funny Pictures History - I always cheated at this things.

Sometimes we know exactly where a story is going to go.  Sometimes, we don’t.

For readers, this can make for a fascinating story.  For writers—or this one, anyway—it can be like riding a rollercoaster in the fog, while trying to lay the track.

Often we don’t have any choice about what the Story Council sends us—as Robin McKinley describes it—or when, and we just try to connect the plot points as best we can.

But sometimes our Councils leave us on our own.  We have to choose.

Those are the interesting times.

Should our MC pick this love interest or that love interest—or both?  Behind closed doors, or on the kitchen counter?

Should we have our MC win out against all odds or learn a life lesson—or neither?

Would it be better for the story if the grandmother lives on or dies (almost) alone while the MC is dithering about the sense of walking through the woods, alone, dressed in bright red?  Will the MC dither on in her grief or put on her Big Girl Boots, heft a woodcutter’s axe, and go hunting?

Which one of our many suspects with equal motive and opportunity is the murderer?  Do we even know?

Which one of our darling, well-drawn, and sympathetic characters should Whomever -It-May-Be  murder in which temperature blood to galvanize or demoralize the others?  And shall we use poison this time, a knife, a car, a jealous lover, or use the power of suggestion to drive them all to their inevitable and satisfying demise?

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHaHaHahahahahahuhhhhcough-cough-hack choke gasp . . .

<sip>

Ahem.  Sorry.

At this point, if you like, you’re welcome to choose to make your own analogies about life being one big Choose-Your-Own-Adventure, etc., etc.

I’m going to choose to leave well enough alone.   And watch this once again:

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Writing is . . . Mood Swings to Music

I like to write to music. 

 My characters have theme songs, my plots have soundtracks.  A song or piece can get me in the mood to write a difficult scene or give me a sense of who my characters are and ideas about what could happen next.

 Since I’m usually working on at least two projects at once—and only recently learned how to delete my playlists*—anyone who takes a peek at the complete contents of my Walkman may be forgiven for wondering how many personalities I have, whether my meds  might be due for tweaking, and/or whether I have any musical discernment at all.

 The answer is many;  and/or good question, I’ll ask;  and/or yes, I can tell when music is playing.   To be honest  my tastes are eccentric eclectic.  I’ll listen to anything from Christian Kane to Apocalyptica.**

Plus, in my defense, I’m maintaining a playlist for my seven-year old until she’s old enough to have her own MP3 player.***  Or that’s the official excuse for the “Ballad of Peanut Butter,” the collected works of Trout Fishing in America, and VeggieTales.

The music in my playlists, though, reflect elements in my stories.  I picked up some songs along the way, searched out others as research, and was given one or two by friends or family.^^

The playlist titled Joey Bagels is full of Rat Pack love with some  13th – 15th Century Spanish music and traditional Berber songs thrown in.   Eclectic, yes—but Joseph “Ain’t that a kick in the head?”  Bageletore isn’t sure what he’s doing in medieval Spain either . . .

Pigeon Drop is set in the present, so I’ve got a little less Rat Pack and a little more Nickelback.

I didn’t know much about the main female character until I heard “The Kill” by 30 Minutes to Mars, and the male character’s ring tone is from Alien Ant Farm,^^^ though he’s got the rep of a Cowboy Cassanova.  A minor character adopted a Miley Cyrus song as a theme—my subconscious must be an interesting place—and someone is starting to hum “Life After You,” by Daughtry.

Some of this might seem a little silly—but I think inspiration is where you find it and anyone trying to string a hundred thousand words together in a new and interesting way needs to find a lot of it. 

Music does it for me.

Besides, with the establishment of e-books, can audiotracks be far behind?

Comment Request for my three loyal readers:  Anyone else write to music?  It can’t be just me and Stephen King.  What’s on your soundtrack—literary or personal?  Or do you prefer silence?  C’mon—even if you arrived here by accident,  looking for apple cider recipes, why not leave an opinion to mark your passing?

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*Don’t roll your eyes at me, whippersnapper.  When I was in my first decade, a compilation recording was a stack of vinyl.  Later, we held our tape recorders up (with both hands) to the stereo speakers.  Digital meant you poked your finger at a button.  Now, get off my lawn.

**Heavy metal cellos.  I tried this on bassoon once, but I passed out.

*** Or cleans her room and maintains it for two months, whichever comes first.  I’m thinking age:

Me:  “Ouch!  You can’t even walk across your carpet without stepping on something.  Isn’t it time to pick up all these marbles, jacks and little Barbie pieces so no one gets a foot puncture?
Janie:  “Nah, it’s okay, Mom.  I wear my Crocs in here.”
Me:  “ . . .”

^But not, sadly, the Big & Rich.  I don’t care how raunchy or anti-whatever it is, I love this song—especially this version (despite the sudden camera tilt).  There.  I said it.

^^I asked my a friend what music plays in casinos and he sent me this.  Very funny, Kevin.

^^^I like AAF’s version better than Michael Jackson’s, but I’m willing to entertain arguments.  Got any?