“Hands, do what you’re bid:
Bring the balloon of the mind
That bellies and drags in the wind
Into its narrow shed.
(The Balloon of the Mind by W.B. Yeats)
Go out into the world and say you’re a writer and a cascade of things will start happening to you. You’ll start to act and think like a writer. I picked up this little gem of an idea from Anne Lamott’s book, bird by bird. (http://www.amazon.ca/Bird-Some-Instructions-Writing-Life/dp/0385480016/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1340638076&sr=8-1 )
If J. A. Konrath’s blog (http://jakonrath.blogspot.ca/ ) is my e-publishing bible, bird by bird has become my daily book of reflections. It’s a book that you can read from start to finish or dip in here and there as the mood suits you. I guarantee that you’ll laugh and recognize yourself in her words and think how wonderful it is that someone out in the world understands exactly how you feel about this process of writing.
So – back to this idea of starting to act like a writer. The other day a friend from across the Lake said, “I better not pick up your novel and read about a crotchety old guy who lives across the Lake.” I assured him that was not the case but immediately started thinking he might make a great character in the sequel. Be careful about giving ideas to a writer.
And on that note – best be careful about anything you say to a writer because a writer will always twist your words. What you’ve said will come out with much more wit or conversely way less witty than you were sure you had said what you said in the first place. To say nothing of how your words will end up grafted onto something someone else said. On the up side – you will rarely be identified – so though you might know those were your words – albeit twisted beyond recognition – no one else will.
Lately I can’t crunch up a piece of newspaper to get the fire going in the morning without stopping to glance at a few articles and wondering if I should cut them out to start a file. Everywhere I go I listen to people in a different way. I find myself tuned in most keenly for unique expressions. The other day I heard someone say, “I straight-up wanted to die.” I like that – sort of give it to me straight, I like it straight-up, this is the real goods kind of expression. I listened in as two women were talking in the grocery line-up the other day and after one had related the snide comment she made to her daughter-in-law about letting the grandkids rip up her flower bed the other woman replied, with a look of pure incredulity, “Ah, you never did.” I was so consumed with thinking about how on earth you could write that and capture her intent – she wasn’t throwing doubt on what her friend was saying – it was as if she was congratulating her on her nerve – my groceries were through and the cashier was looking at me as if to say, “What the hell, lady – are you going to stand there all day or pay up.”
You might also find yourself doing odd things – aside from listening in on strangers’ conversations, which I don’t even count as particularly strange anymore. The other day I snuck a magazine into the bathroom at my doctor’s office so I could tear a page out. It was a picture of a woman wearing a dress that was exactly the type of dress one of my characters would wear. I needed it! Watch you’re writer friends closely when they visit – they tend to steal things and not just your thoughts, words and personality quirks – real objects and things right off the table.
Good news – I am about to start working with an editor to clean-up and refine Disappearing in Plain Sight and get it ready for publishing. I am on top of the world. Of course I know that feeling probably won’t last as the reality of endless rounds of changes sinks in, but for now I am excited to move onto this next stage of my writing process. I might find something to steal or use from the whole experience – maybe she’ll even invite me into her home and she might just have something lying around I really need.