Thursday

Catching Starlight…


One of the most frequent questions asked of writers is where their ideas come from. The usual answer is the newspaper, other things going on around them, or even some scene that seems to pop into their head of its own volition. But the more amazing thing to me is what writers do with their ideas.


A writer takes up an idea in the same way a sculptor picks up a lump of clay. What he or she does with that raw material is where I think the true talent comes in. In the end, after there is a book to show for it, a reader might never even recognize that first original wisp of an idea that started it all. Many times, it has been cut out entirely, and is no longer there anymore.


Still, that original spark was like fuel for the fire, and -- like fuel -- has managed to take the author from point A to point B, with enough impetus and gathering speed to sustain the entire journey. It's an addictive thrill, actually. After a while, an author can become so adept at looking over their little mental collection of ideas, they almost remind me of golfers deciding which iron to use. One can even become quite obsessed with pursuing the perfect hit.


I once had a full-blown scene flash before me while driving somewhere mundane, of a woman digging a hole in the middle of the night all by herself. The ground was like rock and she was breathing hard, making little headway with all her effort. There was a bright moonlight, and the pale gray sweatshirt she was wearing kept riding up to show a line of bare white skin every time she stabbed the shovel into the ground. She was digging a grave out there… I knew it.


I have no idea where that all came from, but it was a very intense moment. For a long time I thought it must be some pivotal incident in a book I was going to write. Except that happened many years, ago, and she never ended up in one. But I imagine she'll fit in somewhere, down the road, because she still pops up, now and again. Maybe she'll look over at me one of those times and say something. And that will be it.


Makes you wonder, though, how much of writing you choose, or how much of it chooses you. Or maybe that's simply the way our brains work if ever we exercise them enough in those creative directions. Writing fiction is the most fascinating activity I have ever been involved in.


But even after having spent so many years at it, I still have no idea where the gift stops and the craft begins. Which is as it should be, I suppose, if you are going to spend so much time spinning things out of stardust.


I love harvesting among the stars.


What's happening on the farm today… I'm glad we have no animals here, right now, other than the dogs who are inside with us. Because today we have broken all records for heat since they have been keeping records in this state. So, another day when we are just waiting… waiting… and waiting… in the cool dark house. Not pitch dark. Just a sort of twilight dark from having draped blankets and sheets over all the doors and windows.

8 comments:

MG Higgins said...

I've had a few occasions where flashes of scenes came out of nowhere. One ended up in a manuscript, others I left aside, believing they were simply symbols from "waking" dreams that I needed to process. How much of writing is inspiration versus craft is a very interesting question.

D. Ann Graham said...

I think so, too, MG Higgins. But "processing waking dreams" is a very intriguing perspective on it, too. I believe I first got interested in the connection between inspiration and craft during my newspaper days, when we had to meet deadlines whether we were "inspired" or not. I was always in awe of those veteran reporters who could whomp out such great stuff at a moment's notice. That's when I started to wonder if one couldn't cultivate that sort of skill the same way keeping in shape works when you spend enough time at the gym...

And I'm still wondering about that.

MG Higgins said...

Yes! That's a great analogy. I do think the more I "work out" at writing, the more quickly and easily I cultivate ideas.

Andrew Leon said...

I have big belief in just doing the work of writing rather than waiting for inspiration. Great photographers don't get great pictures because they waited for the inspired moment and took just the one photograph. They take picture after picture after picture and then pour back through them to find the one that best captured what they were looking for.

David Powers King said...

Hello, fellow campaigner! I'm not in your group, but I still wanted to check out your blog and say, "HI!"

Harvesting among the stars. I love doing that, too! Perfectly put! :)

D. Ann Graham said...

Hi, Andrew... thanks for stopping by. And I agree with you about how much can come out of "just doing the work" of writing. Having spent many years in journalism, I have mentioned over and over how much respect I have for the Veteran reporters who not only consistently produce quality work day after day, but they get better at it.

Still, if I had a nickel for every time I was "gathering stardust" on some of those long night shifts, I'd be a wealthy woman by now.

D. Ann Graham said...

Thank you, David, I'm glad you did. I've been "group hopping" too, that's half the fun. I'm glad we have plenty of weeks to do this activity, though, since I am really enjoying actually spending time on people's sites and not just flying through.

Writing creates such interesting people!

Andrew Leon said...

Oh, well, I'm not knocking inspiration. I'm just not for sitting around and waiting for it, I guess. :)
But, then, gathering stardust does sound like you go after it instead of waiting for it ot fall on you.