Expect the Unexpected


Here at Magical Words, we often talk about the importance of perseverance — BICHOK (Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard, for any newcomers reading this), writing through the doubt, making time day after week after month after year until the novel is finally finished.  I’m a *huge* believer in discipline, with regard to my writing.  I got far in the professional work-world of law firms by making commitments to my employers and keeping those commitments.  I’d be a fool to be less dedicated to my own writing career.

But every once in a while, everyone needs to stray from the path. 

That’s what I did, yesterday afternoon. 

For those who haven’t been following along, I’ve been on a very tight writing timetable.  I’ve been doing final edits on one novel (DARKBEAST REBELLION), which will be in stores in September.  I’ve been putting the finishing touches on another novel (***Name Deleted For Now***), which my agent just started shopping around this week.  I’ve been drafting a third novel (SINGLE WITCH’S SURVIVAL GUIDE a/k/a Jane Madison, Volume 4), which will be published in about 1.5 months.

So, yeah.  A lot going on.

But last week, I got an email from a friend I’ve known for twenty-five years.  Her daughter, J, is in the third grade.  J’s class is participating in a reading challenge — the third grade is trying to read for one million minutes this school year.  J’s class of around 20 kids just passed the 100,000 minute mark.  (Cue sounds of cheering!)  J’s teacher wanted to have a party to celebrate this milestone.  To make the party special, the teacher sent email to all the parents asking them if they knew anyone involved with any aspect of publishing.

You can see where this is going, right?

So, this afternoon, I traipsed out to suburban Maryland to talk to a class of third graders.  The kids were *wonderful* — even though we were meeting at the end of their school day, and even though they could see a cake (and cookies and conversation hearts and pretzels and cheese balls) sitting on a nearby table, and even though they could almost touch their personalized certificates and special sparkly pencils sitting next to the snacks — even with all those distractions, the kids listened to me talk for about 20 minutes.  And they asked questions for another 20 minutes.  And they told me about their favorite books, and their writing notebooks, and their ideas for their own stories.  I got to hand out the certificates and the sparkly pencils (and I got to remind the kids that you take with your left hand and shake with your right.)  They were wonderfully enthusiastic, and at the same time, they were respectful of me and of each other.

I had a fantastic time.  Seeing all those kids getting excited by reading made *me* excited about writing.  So, yeah, I’ll be spending this evening doing the drafting that didn’t get done this afternoon.  And I’ll still be a little bit behind.  And I wasn’t even able to sell books directly to the kids — they’re a couple of years too young for DARKBEAST. 

But my trip was so, so worth it.  (Plus, J’s across-the-street neighbor has an elephant-sized statue of a purple diplodocus on the front lawn — suburban views don’t get cooler than that!)

So, share your tales of serendipity with me.  When have you strayed from your own writing rules and/or goals and ended up happy for the experience?


10 comments to Expect the Unexpected

  • This isn’t what you meant. It wasn’t something altruistic, something I did for others and that managed to also give me a boost. But it sticks in my memory and calls to me often.

    I remember a 4 day trek up to Nantahala. It was cold and raining and wet and miserable, and the RV was full of river-stinky wet gear, and wet, cold, stinky river paddlers (some of whom didn’t feel like showering because it was only Wednesday). And I was stressed and exhausted. Deadlines looming. Needing to get home. And because I had promised to join everyone, we geared up in our cold wet river gear and went down the river.

    We were the only people on the water.

    Mist fell down the sides of the gorge like a waterfall of clouds. Birds sang like they were calling for the last warm days of summer to return, and to remember them. The water called back with a muted roar of joy and power. The river carried us along like the veins of mother earth. I got out front at one point, and a bird flew along beside my boat, just us, alone on the water. Wings outspread in a slow glide, he watched me with one quirky eye, sharing some great bit of bird wisdom about flight with his water-bound cousin. Rain fell and dimpled the surface of the river in the places where it was smooth. Raindrops mixed with my tears until I couldn’t tell the difference between the tears of the earth and my own.

    And I was restored.

    That river trip was a thing of great worth, a priceless, un-match-able experience. I returned home relaxed and calm. And I met my deadline. I carry that river trip in my memory like a precious thing. And when I’m stressed, and having panic attacks, and feeling like a failure, I remember that trip. And that bird, gliding beside me, sharing the experience of the cold and the wet.

    Thanks. I needed this today.

  • Lovely post, Mindy — and an absolutely stunning, poetic comment from Faith. I am so deep in my writing these days that the thought of a day off fills me with panic. I have not tales of altruism to tell right now. But like Faith, I do sometimes force myself to forsake desk and computer and go out to look at birds or stalk the perfect image with camera. Invariably, I begrudge the time lost from work, even as I make my preparations to go. And invariably I feel and write better the rest of the week for having taken the day for myself.

  • Hepseba ALHH

    Well, I certainly can’t match the amazing stories already posted, and right now I have very little by way of writing discipline to break. But I would like to say ‘Thank you’ to Mindy and Faith for sharing. Life is made for those moments of joy.

    Today I have a holiday (Rhodeo day instead of President’s day apparently for Tucson-based companies) and am hoping to take in the joy cooing over and working on my little collection of WIPs. Happy Friday.

  • Faith – Um, wow. Thank you for sharing that beautiful scene — your words give me a taste of that centering you gained. (And, seriously — I’m marking this so that I can come back to it, in times of need…)

    David – I, too, have trouble reminding myself to step away from the keyboard. Alas, the times I most need it are the times I’m least likely to give myself a break. Good luck, as you buckle down to the last week of this insane month!

    Hepseba – I’m always amused by the odd holidays states give when they’re a bit out of sync with the rest of the world (Patriots’ Day in Massachusetts; Jackson-Lee day (sadly) in Virginia, to replace MLK Day…) Enjoy your WIP on this Friday!

  • Saturday is my writing day and I usually hold hard to the sacred writing time rule. If I don’t write on Saturday, I may not get to write any other day of the week. But last Saturday I had the San Gabriel Literary Festival to attend. On Sat. I was feeling pretty bitter about the whole thing because I was tired and behind on all kinds of work including my WIP, so I made myself take a couple hours out to sit down and write. Nothing. Could not get the scene off the ground, couldn’t figure out what to do next, couldn’t tune out the thousand little noises and distractions. Total frustration. So I gave up and went back to the festival, still feeling kind of bitter about the whole thing. And I sat on the lawn of the West Covina courthouse and listened to people read their work. And while my attention was on the sky and the grass and other people’s words my head finally sorted out what was wrong with the scene and came up with what needed to happen after that to get the story back on track with the outline.

  • deborahblake

    Just coming off of 2 weeks sick, so my brain is all…uh…duh and I’ve got nothing.

    Nothing except a YAY Mindy! And a second, third and fourth to the WOW for Faith. That was amazing and inspiring. Thank you for sharing.

  • sagablessed

    First: Faith….wow. I was touched and moved. May such memories keep bright in your heart. To share such with us deserves to be honored.

    Mindy…when I saw my Monster at the dog rescue, I quit writing for a few weeks. I saw that face with his underbite, and that curly tail, and my whole world went upsidedown. I knew I was going to be a daddy to a horrible, terrible, Monster. Even though I had deadlines and writer’s group and crits due, seeing that face was all I could think of. When I come home after a bad day at work, he is always so happy to see me. Then he begins to play, and the wonders of heaven burn away the shades.
    Love at first sight.
    He may be ‘just a dog’ to some, but to me he is my child, my companion, and my friend.
    Joy cleansed my heart and refreshed my soul. Now when I write it is with a new set of eyes. Eyes that see the wonder in a sunrise, and the glory of a dew-kissed rose begining to bloom.

  • I can’t recall any amazing times where I intentionally stopped writing despite wanting to for something else. Nothing that made me better for the experience or refreshed my batteries. Although I have thought to myself on numerous occasions, “*sigh*, I could be home writing right now.”

    Well, maybe those times when I entertain. I do enjoy getting people together and cooking for ’em. It’s creativity in a different way. And our anniversaries. Those I don’t mind setting aside the writing for.

    I tend to be the proverbial hermit on the mountain. I like my writing solitude. Very Heron in that respect.

    Most of my week is spent either writing or doing housework and wishing I was writing…

  • Sarah – I think that releasing our minds is often the key to solving the problems. For me, that’s often on a walk or in the shower — there’s something about the repetition of “low-cost-of-failure” events that lets me unknot things. I’m glad that your literary escape provided the same type of breakthrough for you!

    Deb – I’m glad you’re finally past the sick! (Some nasty bugs out there this season…)

    Saga – See?!? All you have to remember is that joy, when you’re cleaning up the disaster of a naughty Monster 🙂

    Daniel – I find that my “hermit” life has changed as my writing career has shifted. When I was juggling writing and the dayjob, I was a complete writing hermit. Now, I try to integrate the real world with the ones I make up (and sometimes, I do too good a job, and end up needing to scale back socializing to get the work done…) It sounds like you have a close-to-balance that works for you!