I am happy to announce the release of my latest novel, Christmas at Maplemont Manor! Also, a special treat – for a limited time – the novel is available in NetGalley for book reviewers!Read More...
Sometimes the best trips (and stories) are about the journey itself.Read More...
There are few summer activities that will make one more aware of river currents than kayaking. Sitting in the kayak, provides a front row view of the water and an immediate pull of the current. As the water ebbs and flows, suddenly it can take a lot more effort to direct the kayak than it did before. Perhaps the flow of the invisible current pulls one toward the beach or pushes away from the beach.
The invisible hand of the current shapes the entire trip, making the person on the kayak strongly aware of when they are going against the current or along with the flow of the water.
Writing can be like that sometimes too, where each project seems to have an ebb and flow of its own. An author can have a terrific outline or story in mind, only to discover a few pages in that the dialogue seems labored and the plot feels impossible.
Stories, especially novels, can take on lives of their own, and I know several writers (including myself) who get stuck in their writing projects. Sometimes it’s the character that doesn’t fit or the plot, and all roads seem to lead to dead ends. Sometimes it’s worth starting over completely from scratch and trying something new, like pulling the kayak out of the water completely and trying a more navigable river.
Other times, it’s a matter of pushing through the current by paddling like crazy to force a way to the other side by continuing to write until the problem works itself out and quieter waters appear through the struggle. Lastly, it can also turn out that the river isn’t the problem, and instead it’s the solution. Going with a new flow turns a story into something even better, by floating in a direction entirely.
Both writing and kayaking are creative processes of adaption and adjustment, changing course when necessary and making judgment calls about how much effort to expel when something isn’t working as planned.
I suppose that’s also true about life in many ways. If the universe is telling us that we are going against the current, we always have the choice (and even invitation) to change course. That said, we often become stronger by paddling harder upstream than by coasting with the flow. Growth can sometimes be only managed through a lot of effort and change.
Of course the true secret of life is knowing when to paddle like crazy to get where you are going and when to pull up oars and float awhile to go with the flow. Either way, we’ll learn something if we are paying attention.
Recently I had the fun opportunity to visit a lighthouse that had been moved to the shore, after it was decommissioned. At the top of a second set of very narrow stairs, I found the light itself and snapped this photo of the upside view of the water outside when looking through the light.
As anyone who has visited a lighthouse before knows, while the glass around the light is quite large, the light bulb itself is small. Of course there’s some excellent science involved about how a small light can extend miles away to show the safe path home for those at sea.
Small things can always shine brightly, which gives me hope and a reason for optimism. It’s easy to get discouraged when things don’t work out the way that we hoped, but important to keep shining anyway.
As a writer, it can be easy to feel discouraged when someone else doesn’t share the same joy after reading your novel or first chapter. However, those moments also provide opportunities to improve and grow.
The novel editing process can be like the trial and error involved in building the first lighthouse light designs. Each improvement and even small adjustment can result in that final, dazzling beam of light which can illuminate and connect with readers.
Keep shining brightly. Eventually the fog will clear, the glass will be adjusted, and that small light will dazzle in brightness.
Writers talk a lot about point of view and for good reason. How each character sees and understands the world is what makes them genuine and unique compared to other characters. Several characters could experience the same event, like attending a cherry blossom festival in spring, yet only one of them noticed this view of the sky.
Perhaps the other characters focus on the crowd, another on their uncomfortable shoes, and yet another on a remark from someone else in the group. Sometimes scenes can read rather flat, until the author changes perspective and finds a unique twist for the characters in terms of perspective.
This photo is one that I took recently after being a little overwhelmed at a cherry blossom festival, sandwiched into the mob of tourists and locals out to see the trees and their splendor. Whenever I travel to places like this or deep, green forests, I always end up with at least one photo looking up.
The wonder of this perspective is how timeless it is, and with cherry blossoms, how fleeting. The blooms will only be around for a very short time before they shake off their pink flowers to transform again. Yet, this image could be seen by almost anyone who catches a blue sky day and looks up while the trees are in bloom.
In both writing and travel, perspective changes everything. We could walk away from any experience or chapter, focused only on the flaws or complexity. But, if we are really lucky, the genuine moment is what we take with us. The magic of the shades of pink, floating in a clear sea of blue sky.
Wherever April takes you, I hope you have the opportunity to find a little magic in the April showers, frogs singing at night, or the pink cherry blossom flowers floating gently toward the green grass. Happy spring, everyone. Here comes the sun!