Thursday, October 9, 2008
So Much to Think About
I’m supposed to be writing at the moment. Not my blog, I mean more scenes for Pentacle of Storms, my work in progress. I’ve had my Snickers flavored Kudos bar to fuel the process, and I left off at an exciting part yesterday evening, so I’m even motivated to get back to my story.
I’m not sure if this happens to all writers, or just me, but when my mind becomes cluttered with too many details I have trouble settling down to play with my characters. Often the details are environmental--a pile of dishes or a stack of laundry can provide an irritating distraction, and I tend to need a tidy house before I can sit down and work.
Other times, my everyday to-do list gets too long for me to focus. Multiple errands pile up, and post-it notes multiply across the kitchen counter in a sea of reminders. I’ll reach a point where I need to dedicate a day, or two, or even three to running around doing errands before I can focus at the computer again.
Another common distraction is what I call my “emotional to-do list.” If it’s been too long since I’ve sent my mother photos of my daughters, or called her, or if I’ve been putting off planning a birthday party for one of my girls, or if I haven’t downloaded photos from the digital camera to the computer and the card’s full, or if I know one or both of my daughters needs some “Mom time,” or I haven’t done some basic, self nurturing activities like taking time to go out for coffee with a friend or have a writers’ study break with my sister, or haven’t scheduled a haircut and I’m starting to look like one of the Beatles in their big hair phase… You get the idea, all these things build up, and at some point, I need to get them all checked off my list before I can write effectively again.
Today, the mind clutter is more complex. The stuff of thoughts. And for me, the only way to clear those out is to talk about the, or write them down. I’m one of those people who soaks in fall colors--the brilliant blue sky, burgundy mums, pink and orange zinnias, yellow and red trees, and rich green grass--until I feel as if I’ve just eaten a huge, harvest meal, and I can’t possibly hold any more.
Today’s been one of those spectacular, visual days. All morning, huge bird shadows raced across the backyard, and there’s just enough wind to set the tree shadows dancing and create a mosaic of light and dark tree forms on the grass. Even the bees on the zinnias right outside the sliding glass doors by my computer chair hold my attention with their fuzzy backs, their frantic movements as they gather pollen, and even one particularly fascinating scuffle with a passing butterfly.
I also woke from a vivid dream this morning. A flock of crows had landed outside a tiny apartment where my dream self was staying, and I stood on the front step watching the wealth of textures in their feathers, the way the light played across their shiny backs, and the way the air itself seemed to rustle with their movements. A stray dog joined the crows, his coat a silky mass of brown, black, and white areas, as if he had a bit of collie in his mixed heritage. I fed the dog and took him inside, but because he snapped and growled at my husband, I had to send him on his way, and as he left, he picked up a torn towel in his mouth and brought it with him--as a blanket, I assumed--and I was captivated by the pathos of the moment.
I’m not sure if all writers think too much, or if it’s just me. Today, I’ve been thinking about--in addition to all of the above--the story one of my daughters shared yesterday. At lunch, one of her friends went on and on about how “grossed out” she was about two men kissing in a history movie. I think the movie was about Nazi Germany, but I can’t remember for certain. My daughter sat there feeling incredibly uncomfortable, scrambling for something she could say without redirecting her friend’s invective toward herself. After school, she still felt frustrated that she ended up remaining silent, and also sad because this was only the most recent instance of various forms of intolerance, and she’s decided it’s a friendship that can’t last.
When I went in for allergy shots today, a nurse who I’ve known for about sixteen years mentioned that she’d just found out I’m a writer (probably from another nurse I’ve chatted with who likes to write), and how surprised she was that she’s known me so long and had no idea that I write. She asked if I write nonfiction, which I don’t. Then she explained that she has a story to tell, and proceeded to share a personal, tragic story from her past. “The book would be about the journey,” she explained, and then mentioned some of the strong, amazing things she’s done since the tragic event.
I was struck by the fact that in the hurried contacts that take place in a midsized city, people can know each other for years, in a professional context, or as neighbors, and never really know anything about each other. I was also reminded once more of the profound strength of women, and the power of the stories we tell.
All this barely scratches the surface. Some days, my thoughts get so full that they race around in confused disorganization. Putting a few of them down on paper helps--but it also stirs up more ideas.