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Archive for February, 2014

Lately when riding, I am a hot mess. (That’s the technical term.  The actual term used by my instructor is unprintable here.) There are so many things going on — my seat isn’t balanced, my legs slide forward, my knees are jammed up against the knee roll, my reins get floppy — hence, the hot mess. (In fairness to my past riding self, it’s not all bad all the time — but compared to how I used to be, it certainly feels that way.)

This week, my instructor brought me back to basics.  She took a long whip, threaded it between my elbows and behind my back, and told me to keep it there while cantering.  Lean forward and hunch your shoulders toward your ears (my favorite riding position, apparently) and the whip pops out. Humiliation galore. (And an exciting ride if it happens to hit your horse on the way down.)

It’s an old trick, but it worked.  To keep the whip in place, I had to roll my shoulders down and lean back. Which centered my seat. Which fixed my leg. Which got my hands out of my lap and improved the way I held the reins.

One small change, and everything fell into place.

Writing is like that too.  Looking at an entire manuscript is overwhelming and can make you feel like a failure.  But if you pick just one thing to work on — your dialogue, for example, or the way you transition between scenes — one of two things will happen:

Either you’ll fix the main problem, and everything else will snap into place, or…

You’ll find out you have more work to do.  Which isn’t the end of the world, I promise.  It just means picking the next one thing. Fixing that. And moving on.

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(And if you’ve read this far, here’s a reward — one of my favorite riding videos is at the end of this page.)

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Last week, after one of the constant snow storms, the Slobbering Beast and I were lucky enough to be the first ones on the trail.  No car tracks at the main entrance, no boot marks anywhere.  Bliss. We hiked in silence, the only noise the creaking of the trees, the crash of ice and of snow sliding off a branch. We took a side trail, not the main one, and about 15 minutes in the snow was covered in tracks.  Small prints — mice or maybe chipmunks — hand-like prints that could have been raccoon or skunk, and then, far off on the rocks, a large dog-like paw print with no human tracks in sight.  We didn’t linger near that one.

The Slobbering Beast was in his glory, running this way and that, investigating every scent.  It was a reminder to me that the woods are like this for him every time, full of invisible residents. They are there always, even when I can’t see the signs of their presence.

Stories are like that too, I think. All around us, hiding in plain sight, invisible until there’s a shift in our thinking, a catalyst to change how we view the world. Then they reveal themselves, ready at last to be told.

What stories will you see today?

Happy dog

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Around This Time…

Saint Francis is wishing he’d been posted to a warmer clime.

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Space

I’ve finished a project.  It feels odd to type those words, because I’ve been working on it for so long. And of course it’s not really finished — it’s just resting with someone else for a bit.  I’m nervous and anxious and a bit at a loss for what to do with all this mental space.  I finish a freelance project and turn around to poke some words on my manuscript into place and remember that I’ve sent it off. I pick up a book to read and don’t have to put it down because it’s 10 p.m. and I haven’t made my word count for the day.  I can read my favorite authors again without worrying I’ll be influenced by their voices.

What will I do with all this head room?  For now, I’ll let it be.  I’m organizing my physical space — I promised myself if I finished writing this month I’d clean my office and closet (how sad is that for a motivating goal?) — and in a bit I’ll organize my brain,  too.  I’ll read plotting books, research the idea for a story that’s whispering in my ear, and maybe take a few workshops.  But for now, I’m trying to let my brain be still, let the writing muscles rest so that they’ll be ready when I need them again.

What do you do with the space between projects?Image

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