Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Write Window

Ruts in the writing life happen. We grasp our way through a story, do the research, and realize it’s not the one we’re supposed to tell. At least not yet. We bump along in that rut for awhile until a new path appears, scattered with red and orange leaves, shining glass-like in the sunshine. If we’re really lucky, we figure this out before page ten, which was the case with my recent novel. The only problem was, I didn’t have another start from scratch story.

Or so I thought.

It does a writer good to peer through a new window. Visit places we’ve never been. Meet people we’ve never met. If we can’t do that, we can always explore areas in our own neck of the woods that we’ve neglected. Anything to show us the mysterious, quirky and fresh side of life.

On a recent trip to Vermont, a place I’d never visited, a shiny new story snuck in. I was sitting on the steps of our cabin at sunset, wind bristling in trees, leaves like candy wrappers, colliding with each other, swirling, twirling, and dancing, air fragrant with roots and conifers. Straight ahead an abandoned dirt road, a rusted model T Ford off to one side. To my right a red barn, skirted next to an 1800’s colonial farmhouse. Just as I looked, a woman’s black silhouette appeared and paused in the window. I could feel something beginning. It slid through the wind and landed, smiling on my lap.

Sometimes a clear moment is all it takes: a sunny day flecked with the unusual, or dusk in Vermont. The writer in us is always drawn to what’s behind the mountain and down the lonely dirt road. We excavate stones from these places and arrange them in a circle. These stones represent life: the sensual, brutal, wonder, abandonment, love, honor, awe, failure, and death of our existence. We arrange stones we collect along the way into stories that help us make sense of our world. Sometimes we, as much as our readers, just need to be entertained. And there’s the rub-a good novel can and does do both.

I fancy this ancient Chinese proverb: A bird does not sing because it has an answer-it sings because it has a song.

Dear writer,if you're struggling,look through a new window and your song will find you.


  1. What a beautiful proverb. The Chinese are good at that sort of thing.

    I'm not at all surprised that you found some inspiration in Vermont. I love that state! And this time of year would be the time all the magic comes out in the colours and trees and scents in the air.

    Good luck with your story idea! I know you're going to take this one and run with it.


  2. Profound words of encouragement, Dorraine. I will take from it and see what I come up with. :)

    Do you teach writing workshops? You should!

  3. Vermont is spectacular, Jai! Can't believe it took me so long to get there, but thankful I finally did. Thanks so much. I'm running with this one, pearlescent glitter behind me. :-)

  4. Always delighted to offer any encouragement, Anita. We do learn so much from each other. Just keep your eyes open. Inspiration is notorious for sneaking up on us.

    Re: writing workshops- yes,I have taught some at a local college, high school and library. Novel writing mostly. I love giving back that way. :-)

  5. Many times have I found that which I my own back yard! The inspiration is always there but sometimes it needs a (certain) mechanism to trigger it :)

  6. Absolutely true, Subby! We only have to pay attention. :-)

  7. nice...great advice...i like the arrange the stones analogy as well...good to see you...smiles.

  8. Good to see you too, Brian! What a great interview you did. So nice to learn more about the man behind the words. :-)

  9. The perfect answer to the perennial inquiry: "What does it mean?"

  10. "...look through a new window and your song will find you". I like this concluding sentence of your post.
    I'm no writer,poet or composer. So I'll replace the word 'song' with the word 'luck'. I'd like Luck to find me, and not me looking for Luck.

  11. Hi Duta, I've been away from the ole computer! Here's to lady luck landing on your doorstep!

  12. "A bird does not sing because it has an answer-it sings because it has a song."
    That, my friend, is awesome.

    I found you accidentally, following a chain that started here:

    If you have not visited that site, I highly recommend it as something I know you would like. Like your site, you see the difference between a blogger and a writer.

  13. Thanks, John and nice to meet you! Keep the words flowing. :-)