Archive for September 2009

The Road Not Taken

September 27, 2009

Farm pump Two paths

Farm pump two paths

This Robert Frost poem was much on my mind this week for a few different reasons though none of which center on the poem’s theme.  Then as I was mulling over what topic to choose for today’s post and how to develop it the title and the last line of the poem kept running through my head. 

So I dug it out from that large shelf of saved books from the college years and reread the poem.  And thought some more. 

Meanwhile another part of my mind kept circling back to a topic I read on Monday which was the daily posting there.  The basic question the poster left the readers to answer was this:  “Were their points in our lives when we knew we had a make a choice between two “roads” or options?

And after that choice and in hindsight, do you now wonder what would have happened had the other choice been the better or more interesting or even worse choice?” 

In other words, she asked the readers to consider the what-if game. 

That’s what I considered all week as I thought of several specific times in my life when I made decisions, clear, well-thought out decisions, even if later they turned out not to be what I hoped.  I guess that’s my nature.  

But I don’t dwell on what-might-have-beens.  I’m more of a what’s-going-on-in-the-present with a serious serving of what-might-be-kind of woman. 

So I thought I had today’s topic nailed down Friday morning.  However, we had guests for dinner that evening, dear friends who moved to Florida when they retired and we rarely see them unlike when they were our neighbors.  But we do stay in touch.

 After lots of conversation and a great dinner, my neighbor made the point that we were the kind of friends that just picked right up where we left off even if a great deal of time had elapsed since last we were together.  That led to how had we met originally.  That brought me to thinking about what I’d been considering all week, those times when you make a decision and follow one path over another. 

 I said that in something like:  “If I hadn’t gotten my teaching jobs here, we’d never have met.”

 My hubby said then: “You’d never have met me…and…”  (You get the drift.  The rest is history)  So did I…because my hubby is my love.  While I might get upset with him at times, I know he’s always there for me, and he knows the same about me.  We are each others’ greatest supporters.

 Taking that first teaching position was easy.  The job market was very tight in my field.  Finding work would be easier if I could relocate and shift into a field that needed my skills but not in a teaching capacity.  That would have meant needing a solid child-care system and a friendship network in a place definitely out of state and perhaps overseas.

The sons were vocal in their determination not to move.  They were getting into their teens, not a time to add fuel to a rebelling age.  When I was about to the end of my rope in my job hunt, I interviewed for something a bit of a challenge but I explained how I could handle that.  I was offered the position.  A decent salary, security, the proximity to an extended family and friends.  Those are important when you need a job as a divorced single mom with three growing sons–who didn’t want to move away from their friends or their grandparents.

Black eyed Susans

Black eyed Susans

So I looked no further for work.  That road was the one for me.  And as Frost’s poem ends: “And that has made all the difference.”

Risk Taking

September 19, 2009

Dragonfly kite outside my office window

Dragonfly kite outside my office window

I’ll be starting a new book in the next week.  That’s always a very scary time for me.  Well, one of several such times in the process of birthing a book.  Generally, I’m pretty much risk-averse in my personal life.  Or if I take a plunge I’ve pretty much tried to limit the bad places I might fall or the awkward situations I might find myself in.

 With a book start I can try to limit my writing risks by doing research as necessary, character analysis and backstory, figuring out conflict, goals, motivation etc.  However, sometimes characters have a way of changing my plans once I get into the first few chapters. 

This can be risky.  Their insistence could change the whole focus of the book.  That’s scary especially if the writer, in this case—me, is a bit of a control freak.  I’ll worry about that new direction as I haven’t thought it through.  What if it’s really a writing demon’s trap to have me write thousands of words only to have to delete them all because my first idea was the best idea.  Or at least a better one.  Or if I change directions, how will the details I’ve already thought about and written in earlier chapters still apply?  And?  And?  And? 

 The list could be endless.   And use up weeks.  Or more.

 So for the next few days I’ll battle my urges to not start but just keep pulling together my needed information, set my stage, and then plunge in.  I’ll see where my characters’ currents take me and trust them, mostly.  🙂 I guess in writer terminology that makes me a hybrid—both plotter and pantser.  

Should I or not?

Should I or not?

I have to stuff down my fears of taking a risk if I’ve done my preparation well.  Because if I have done my planning well, how could my characters derail their story?  And if they are insistent about change?  

Well, like my best of friends, I better listen and take heed.  After all, it might be a greater risk not to.

What’s your take on this?

An Old Photo and My First Book

September 13, 2009

My first book’s release day is approaching fast.

Revision finished bouquet

Revision finished bouquet

 Of course, I’m getting more excited by the day and finding my fingers itching to hold this “baby” in my hands for the first time.  🙂

Over the course of this past week, once I finished the revisions on my most recent manuscript on Tuesday, I was thinking about how long I’ve been writing.  And waiting to get to this point.

 Sure, I’ve taken many side paths to other careers and roles, wife, mother, college professor, academic writer and some technical writing.  But where writing was concerned, my heart always winged back to those years before I earned a salary and wrote fiction, usually late at night or in the car while I watched my sons practice whatever seasonal sport they were playing.

 I don’t know about you but I’ve heard and read about those writers who are well-known today and talk about their early days, writing novels in longhand or typing on a manual or electric typewriter if you were really lucky.  I’ve been there, done that. 

 My first feeble attempts were in long-hand.  😦  Unfortunately, many years of college note-taking ruined my handwriting and I switched to a typewriter.  So much easier for me. 🙂

Writing at the kitchen table

Writing at the kitchen table

While I was going through old photos this week, I discovered a photo of those days.  Which brought back memories of that kitchen table where stories and college papers were written by hand or on the typewriter.  Of the meals shared around that table with my family—which meant clearing off the papers and typewriter which was a blessing but a heavy one.  

 I used that table for cooling baked goods, setting out and putting together several kinds of Christmas cookies and getting help in decorating them with my sons.  My grandmother put together pies on that old table and that small kitchen with that large table served so many functions in my life.  Not the least of which was my original writing space but all of which shape my writing voice.  I’m framing this photo and putting it in my current writing space.  It will ground me and inspire me.

 In my new and very modern office, I’m surrounded by things still important in my life, family photos, writing awards, my puppy, a few treasured objects from trips or friends.  All inspire me.

 What about you and your writing space?

Fogs, Fiction & Life

September 6, 2009

Foggy morning

Foggy morning

We’ve had very unusual weather this past week.  Really cool nights, sometimes downright chilly.  And lovely sunny days.  Not hot, humid and hazy ones as we often see at the end of August and the first part of September.

Since I live right on the shore of Lake Michigan and it’s a huge lake, it’s a weather-decider.  What that’s meant for me was very early in the morning, I’d be watching the sun rise further above the lake’s horizon and fog would drift in and out.

This event was haunting and beautiful and jump-started my writing muse faster than my two cups of coffee.

It also made me think about life.  How like fog that slips in on “little cat feet” (Carl Sandburg’s, “Fog”), life can sometimes take you unawares.  For a brief moment of happiness.  Or a stabbing pain of loss.

See the shore again

See the shore again

But no matter what life’s fogs bring, like those in nature, those times leave.

And thus, the writer in me has fodder for another scene, another chapter, another book.

How about you?  What do you do with the fogs in your life?