Gotta love Elvis Costello don't you?
This might sound strange but I'm going to share this here anyway. At least everyone that I've ever mentioned this to has stared back at me with a quizzical look. What, might you be wondering, am I jabbering on about? I thought you'd never ask. I'm talking about my habit of reading your words.
Huh? There it is, that baffled look I was waiting for. Let me explain.
For more years than I can even recollect I've been in the habit of following conversations visually and aurally. When someone is speaking I'm not necessarily seeing them anymore, they're a vague image relegated to an indistinct background and I'm reading their words as I would on a page, punctuation included. Now this is where this is really going to sound strange. If they use a word that piques my interest, something I don't hear in general conversation I'll immediately jump to a dictionary format, read the definition then move on to the thesaurus to try out other words in their sentence that they could have chosen. All this, mind you, is while they're speaking and I'm still reading along. I don't get as many opportunities to cross reference random words as you'd think. Most people tend to speak in unimaginitive ways, relying on the most common forms of a word when there are so many other options out there. But sometimes I'll be surprised and perk up at what's thrown into conversation. My husband does this more often than most. I love it.
Of course these instances typically happen when I'm interested and stimulated by the subject and very engaged. That blank look on my face could just as easily be from boredom - I could have tuned out in favor of something else - like balancing my checkbook. Ha, just checking to see if you were paying attention. I don't touch my checkbook. That's numbers again, come on.
I do this while listening to music too. The more complicated the better. I'll see the notes running across the staff and follow along with my eyes. Vocal dexterity is something that really fires me up. I'll mention Elvis Costello again because his song Beyond Belief is a pleasure to listen to and follow in my mind because of how the notes leap all over the page. Daryl Hall's Do What You Want is another fun little exercise where he shows off his vocal range. Then there's one of my very favorites, Todd Rundgren's Pretending to Care. It's a complicated and haunting song layered with harmonies and sung a capella. I can't listen to it without weeping. Give me harmony or give me death! Just kidding, that sounds a bit extreme doesn't it?
So anyway, I'd be interested to hear if anyone else visualizes words or music in the same way I do. I can't be alone in this but so far, I haven't met anyone yet who understands how I experience these things. Anyone, anyone?
You knew I had to get into this right?
My destiny as a writer was pretty much set by the age of twelve when I got a typewriter for Christmas. I converted my vanity into a desk and started typing and fell in love with the process, the freedom of words, the mental exercise, the absolute thrill of watching words unfold into ideas, and then into stories right before my eyes. I built up quite a hidden stash of short stories, poems, and essays when I was younger but I didn't write my first novel for another fifteen years.
Two of my three boys were still in diapers when I snuck off to a corner of the basement to finish it. The book was a historical romance and I was wise to file that one away. I expected more from myself and I wasn't ready yet. I continued to write short stories and poems. I even wrote a play. With busy toddlers and a new puppy tearing up the house and juggling a job with the Red Cross I still managed to crank off a book of non-fiction in nineteen days called Women Drivers Have the Right of Way. Then I designed a magnetic propulsion car and built a model prototype, destroyed a love seat with my bare hands, and designed a couple of houses. I'm living in one now. I should explain that I've been designing and building things since first grade. My parents were looking to build our next house so there were books and books of designs and floorplans lying around and I had way too much fun with those. Creative types don't usually stick to one outlet or another. Architecture was a very real possibility to me except for - you guessed it - the math. But I digress.
So anyway, after getting a little detoured from full scale writing for a while, I subsisted on essays for a number of years just to keep writing. I eventually changed careers and found myself laid off every winter and I took advantage of my time alone to explore another novel. I missed creative writing because everything I was doing at that point was skewed towards global themes; politics, the economy, and religion. I wrote essays about Hugo Chavez, North Korea, Iran, the American auto industry, and the environment. I even drew a few editorial cartoons. I'm an information junkie what can I say? But I put my social commentary aside to write Shadows and Doubts and I was quite pleased with it. I followed that the next winter with Grading on Curves, and In Love and War came the next winter.
I have to say that In Love and War was a story I really needed to write. The US was in Iraq and I immersed myself in the news; listening to stories, pursuing information wherever I could find it, and following how the press was both used and prevented from doing their jobs while there. I knew I needed to have a bold journalist under fire and a woman who loved him, desperate to bring him home alive. I have four pages worth of references to include with that baby. I'm just glad I didn't get raided by the FBI for all that research. I might have popped up on their radar like another Unibomber. My son Spencer told me he half-expected it. Imagine smiling and waving at these scowling agents as they're lugging your computer and files away while trying to convince them you're only writing a romance. Uh huh, yeah, sure.
The next winter I wrote a lighter story, Caution: Filling is Hot and I love it. But, knowing me, I needed to wade into weightier subjects and domestic violence was in the news almost daily when I began Friends and Lovers, a tale of unrequited love finally realized and the outside forces that threaten their rosy future. Then came Forest Fires and finally Accidents Make the Heart Grow Fonder. That's my affectionate homage to my love of slapstick and saucy comebacks, of sexual tension and eyebrow raising shenanigans. I had a riot writing it and smiled the entire time. Loved it, particularly the dialogue. I want Jackson's brother Rob to have his story next called Soothe Me Baby but I'm also working on another story called In the Mood and unfortunately both have suffered while I've been pursuing publication this winter and taking courses through the RWA. I need to find more time to focus on them.
So there it is. My brief history of writing. I know, it looks long doesn't it but if you think about it, we're talking almost thirty-five years here. All in all I don't think I did such a bad job condensing this down to one lengthy blog. Right? Right? There you go.
Well here's what's happening in my neck of the woods. After a long stretch of unseasonably warm temperatures there's only a little snow left at the bottom of our driveway. This is very strange since I'm used to seeing snow through May. The beavers are back at work and I expect flooding across the roads shortly.
I took a walk up to the overlook with the dog yesterday and brought my loppers along to cut back branches and brush and to make me feel a little more comfortable in case I run into something big in the woods. The bears should be up and about any time now and I'm far more nervous about them than I am the wolves.
Keeping the home fires burning is going to be more difficult now too because just the other morning my husband Jon went out to throw a few logs into our woodstove outside and discoverd that the boiler had sprung another leak. He pulled all the floating wood out of it and we drained it but now we've got decisions to make before next fall. Ugh. Naturally the temps took a dramatic plunge right after we shut the heat off for the season too. We're back to thirty degrees with cloudy misty skies and no in-floor heat. Very nice. Oh well, I doubt this snap will last long.
So what should I do about my birthday coming up? I wanted to go see a hockey game but the Wild aren't exactly burning up the ice. We went to the Guthrie Theater last year, the big show at the Minneapolis Institute of Art the year before that. Jon wants to take a quick run to Chicago but I'm not sure. I'd love to visit Chicago again. We've never been there together but I worry about the expense. I do that.
I'm almost there! Whoo hoo! After four starts I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. I'm very excited.