Writing Practice

She wiggled her toes inside of her boot, trying to relieve the small but growing pain where a wrinkle in her sock was rubbing oddly against her toe.  When that didn’t work, she bent down and adjusted her sock.  She caught a glimpse of the now-filthy hem of her loose nylon pants and sighed.

Adjusting her hat, she started hiking again.  Absentmindedly she rubbed the back of her neck, then frowned down at her hand and rubbed her fingers together. Her skin had the sticky, gritty feeling that was left when sweat captured dust from the air before drying.  She licked her lips and grimaced, tasting the sharp chemical bite of insect repellant.  After a sip of warm, stale water from her bottle, she sighed again and continued putting one foot in front of another.

Rounding the corner, the trailhead came into sight just as a breeze picked up.  Her nose crinkled as she caught a whiff of unwashed human; as the parking area was empty and she hadn’t seen anyone for the last few hours, she knew the acrid stink belonged to her.  Clearing the edge of the woods, she saw her car and picked up her pace.  Her stuff was already loaded, she’d finally found that stupid nuthatch, and it was more than time to head home.  At the end of three days of camping, she was craving nothing more than a hot shower.  She rubbed her forehead and then stared at the filth smeared across her palm.  It would need to be a long, hot shower, with an excessive amount of soap.

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Walking out some ideas

Birds are very distracting.

I went for a hike today, with several goals in mind.  One of those goals was to work on some of Mara’s story, to get the creative juices flowing again.

It was a very birdy hike, with lots of birds calling.  In fact, my “heard” list was longer than my “seen” list, which was both awesome and also not the primary purpose of the hike.

Even with the feathered distractions, I did manage to work out some details for a section of Mara’s story as well as come up with a couple of new ideas as well.  While I haven’t put them on paper yet, this type of idea development is my usual process, and it’s great to have it start again!

Time on my hands

I worked this morning, but only for a few hours, and I don’t work tomorrow.  This may seem like no big deal to most of you, but my schedule has been really bizarre for the past several weeks due to some crazy work stuff.   After I got off from work, I went to the farmer’s market, grabbed some lunch out, and then came home and took a nap.  A few hours later, after some reading, TV, and web browsing, I found myself at a loss.

If we’re being honest, I was flat-out bored.

I started to call my mom, but then realized two things that made me hang up.  First, running to my mother whining, “I’m bored” is something I should have outgrown a decade and a half ago.  Second, I already knew what she’d say.  Go for a walk.  Take your dog to the park.  Write.

Heeding my mother’s unoffered advice, I went for a walk.  I had planned to use my foot-brain connection to start stirring up Mara’s story again, but instead I made a realization.  I have forgotten how to relax.

Perhaps that’s not the right wording.  It would probably be better to say that I’ve forgotten how to enjoy my down time.  For the past several weeks, what personal time I’ve had has been consumed with getting enough sleep, feeding myself, and keeping my apartment in livable condition.  Now I find myself once again with time to spare, but with my previous habits all but vanished.

Tomorrow I plan to go hike at a local state park.  Nature always has a way of helping me center myself, so I am hoping that a good morning out-of-doors will realign this odd new situation.  That foot-brain link should also kick in, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll finally have some pages to show for it.

Being Behind

Somehow in the last 48 hours I went from being a touch ahead on my NaNo word count to being nearly a day behind.

Perhaps ‘somehow’ isn’t the right word.  I know the reasons.  A small reason is that Friday evening I went out with a friend right after work, because I was invited to participate in a visitor experience event at our local cultural center for free.  I figured it was worth losing a day of writing.  But I was half a day ahead on Thursday, so I should have been able to make it up today.  I did make up for yesterday, but I haven’t been able to get today’s count done.

There are two bigger problems, which are intertwined with one another.  First, I have lots of stuff to distract me and encourage me to procrastinate.  Second, I’m getting to a part of my story where I know what happens big-picture, but I don’t know the details.  With the first 8 days, I was writing stuff that’s been pinging around in my head for months.  Now I get to tease out the details of the amorphous part of my planning, and the challenge is making me more likely to play with the distracting stuff (like my new recliner and Castle season 4 on DVD) instead of writing.

I know what I need to do, which is get my butt out of the recliner and go walk.  (My other go-to activity – showering – has helped generate a few smaller scenes, but we’re talking primary plot development here.  I’d rather work up a sweat than get all pruney.)  With the local weather forecast for tomorrow, I should probably get to that walking today.

This is part of why I participate in NaNo: in a normal, non-competitive writing situation, I would be tempted to just let the distractions take me and put off the next section for a while.  But I really dislike being behind on my word count, and that fact does a lot to keep me on track.

Creative Once Again

I went hiking this morning.  I was in a funk yesterday and decided that the best medicine would be a walk in the woods.  It helped a lot, plus providing some good exercise, but something surprising came of it as well.

The new girl’s story began to unfold.

I shouldn’t have been surprised, really, since I’ve already discovered the link between my brain and my feet.  I wasn’t expecting it to come back to life so quickly, with so much on my mind and no set story to work on.  I won’t complain, though, as I got a lot of the plot figured out.

I do have one small dilemma with the new girl: how to spell her name.  I want to pronounce it LIE-la (as opposed to LAY-la) but the way I want to spell it, Laila, lends itself to either pronunciation.  The only spelling that’s explicit about pronunciation seems to be Lyla, but I don’t like that as much.  It may just have to be Laila.

I’ve figured out quite a bit about her, and it turns out that one of the characters from Butterflies is going to play a role in Laila’s story as well.  One of those lovely “a-ha” moments just hit me as I started typing this post; if this story comes after Butterflies (which it does) and includes a character from Butterflies (which it does) it is very possible that this could be one of the myriad plotlines in the sequel.  I’ll probably write out what I have and then see if it will fit as Chasing Butterflies takes shape.

It’s so exciting when a story starts to come together!  🙂

Time Flies When You’re Moving Slowly

The first thing I did when I arrived on my retreat was to readjust my pace.  I decided that I would be “timeless,” meaning that I had no schedule, no limits on when to do something or how long to do it.  It turns out it takes a bit to adjust from a get-things-done routine to a nothing-but-the-moment routine.

In order to slow myself down, I took my camp chair, my binoculars, and my National Geographic to the edge of my campsite, where two trees provided some lovely shade in a spot overlooking the lake.  There I parked it, just sitting and reading and soaking in the view.  Surprisingly, it worked!

For the rest of the retreat I took my time and went slowly.  One morning I took an apple and a piece of bread (my breakfast) to the nearby fishing pier and just watched the little fish come up to eat bugs off the surface of the water.  I would sit and write, and suddenly two hours would have passed.  I hiked right through “lunchtime” one day, just letting the trails lead me, going from one to another, until I decided I was done hiking.

Walking was the one thing I couldn’t slow.  I kept trying to remind myself to “mosey,” just wander and soak it in, but when my feet started going my brain did, too, so my pace was close to my typical speed.  It didn’t matter in the end, though; the journey was the goal and the hiking loosened my creativity.

I really enjoyed the slow pace, as well as the lack of schedules and plans.  I don’t think I could keep it up indefinitely – towards the end I started getting a little antsy – but it was definitely what I needed right now.

A Foot/Brain Connection

I did a lot of hiking on my writer’s retreat.  I’ve mentioned before that a walk in the park can help me get past writer’s block.  I do a lot of writing in my head when my body can take care of a task on its own, such as waiting in line or pumping gas.  This works as long as I turn my attention to the story.  Apparently hiking is even more effective.

Every time I set out on a trail with the intention of hiking or walking, my mind immediately kicked in to writing mode.  Sometimes characters would just start the next section of dialog.  A few times entire blog posts wrote themselves in my head.  It wasn’t effortless, but it was as close as I think I’ve ever come.  The first full day of my retreat, I settled into a pattern of hike, write, rest, hike write, rest and managed to crank out a chapter of Dragon Pendant, several key scenes from the story, and ideas for seven blog entries.

If I can just manage to find a way to make this hike, write, rest routine stick when I get home, I’ll get a lot more writing done and drop a few pounds along the way!

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