Monthly Archives: June 2013

Workings of Messy Writing Mind

I’m a messy writer.  I’ve always known that, but I’ve also made it a habit not to think about just how messy, since sometimes just seeing the mess can be so terrifying it’s paralyzing.  I may be the writer’s equivalent of a hoarder–lots of bits thrown about all over, stuffing every space, entirely disordered, but, even when it seems unlikely I’ll use any one thing or even notice it again, I can’t make myself get rid of it.

This afternoon, too weary to keep writing–since my messy mind kept me up nearly all night struggling through issues of point of view (it’s a writer thing)–I made some working notes for myself as triggers for the next scene (already fully visualized) so I can start writing again early in the morning after, I hope, a good night’s sleep.

Those notes didn’t seem quite enough, though, as my mind kept on racing ahead, and I suddenly had a recollection of a possible timeline of some events in the story that I had scribbled down this past spring.  I could even see myself sitting in local Indian restaurant, working it all out.

Here’s the messy part.  Most of my notes wind up written by hand in various notebooks, usually whatever notebook, of the many I have always lying about, that happens to be nearest.  If no notebook is near, I’m liable to write on envelopes or napkins or the backs handouts leftover from dull committee meetings.  I have even written notes on credit card receipts and on the insides of the little paper bands some restaurants use to bind their napkins.

You get the idea.

Once in awhile, I realize I’d better bring the notes into some sort of order, which usually means making one pile of notes related directly to whatever I’m working on, another for notes that are indirectly related, and another for notes that are for other ideas altogether.  These piles get a rough sorting, with, for instance, a few pages of continuous (failed) narrative stapled together and then joined by a binder clip with other tries at the same thing. Sometimes I use rubber bands, sometimes I’ll wrap an unlabeled file folder around a pile that has too many different-sized pages for a rubber band or a clip to work.  The result is still pretty messy–just a slightly more organized mess.

So, this afternoon, while I wasn’t exactly in the mood to sort through all the notes, I did want to find that timeline.  All I had to do, I thought, was find the right notebook–something that ought not be too hard, since I’ve mostly used only three for the last several months.

Nope.  Not there. Sort, sort, sort…the timeline seemed to have vanished.

I expected the next serving from my emotions to be panicked despair, but I surprised myself.  With my three great piles before me, not to mention my awareness of all the cutting and pasting and rewriting on screen that’s been going on for the past several weeks, I realized that my writer’s mind was actually very much alive and actively working during a period I had been thinking of as dormant and barren.  Little bits of the story that’s now absorbing my thoughts nearly every moment–awake or asleep–kept popping up, sometimes only as half a sentence, in two years of note-making.

I had to be there, in all those varied places, before I could be here.

And I also found another true comfort.   I’ve been a little disappointed at how few pages I’ve managed so far–pages worthy of keeping more than a day–but a conservative estimate of all my note pages tells me that for the twenty I have, I’ve written at least two hundred.

So, all that time I’ve been in the worst kind of a writer’s despair, thinking I wasn’t writing, but the truth is, I’ve been writing all the time.

Oh…and when I had fully absorbed and enjoyed this revelation, I remembered that I’d written out the timeline I was thinking of while reading a book for research, right in the margins while I was reading.

Now, if I could only remember which book that was…

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Hometown Happiness

Yesterday was so full of delightful treats I feel a little like a glutton (albeit a guilt-free one!) because each treat would have been plenty enough on its own to make the day stand out as splendid.  First, I spent almost the entire day with my mother, who was my partner in the fun.  Together, we drove over to our hometown, New Albany, Indiana, to a neighborhood where both of us spent a good deal of our childhoods with my grandfather’s sisters.

Our particular destination yesterday was the same street, one block over, to a home where a 14-year old reading group–comprised of mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends–was meeting to discuss The Sisters.  About a dozen bright, book-loving women welcomed us with a marvelous lunch and instantly made us feel like friends.  We were tantalized with the promise of a “surprise dessert,” which turned out to be my favorite-in-all-the-world ice cream, Pumpkin Ice Cream from Emery’s Ice Cream, which both my mother and I had thought had gone out of business years ago.  (We learned Emery’s has moved from New Albany to Corydon, Indiana, but all the beloved recipes have made the move as well.)

Aside from this ice cream’s being my favorite (which I had assumed was lost forever), the treat was even more special because my hostesses acted on what had been only a remark of recollection in an email, along the lines of, Yes, I know where that is. Near where Emery’s used to be.  Oh, how I loved their pumpkin ice cream.  Add to this act of thoughtfulness the absolute miracle that Emery’s had pumpkin ice cream available on an early June day (since typically it’s available only in autumn) and you get a really happy writer who is nearly moved to tears over such a particular hometown welcome.

One more surprise awaited from this lovely group of women–a box of fudge from another beloved area business, Schimpff’s Confectionery.

My mother and I capped off the day by returning to Middletown, Kentucky, to share some pumpkin ice cream (yes! a container to take home!) with my stepfather as part of an early Father’s Day celebration.

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My Inspirational Home Away from Home

A couple of weeks ago, my dog Gordy and I spent the weekend in Historic Rugby, Tennessee, the place we both love best as a home away from home.  That weekend, my cherished friends, Donna and Annie, re-opened their shop The Spirit of Red Hill in the newly reconstructed Alexander-Perrigo House, and now they’ve launched their new website so everyone can see their lovely place and all the marvelous things inside.

Everyone who visits Historic Rugby will tell you there’s just something about the place–a feeling of peace so complete, so enveloping that even a few hours there siphons off months of stress.  My recent visit cleared my head enough to get me going full steam ahead on my new novel.

So plan a trip there. Rugby is glorious in June.

Oh, and by the way…if you’re looking for a signed hardcover copy of The Sisters, you can get one in person at The Spirit of Red Hill!

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