On this Super Bowl Sunday I am not fretting over whether it’ll be the Giants or the Patriots. By all means I’ll watch to find out, but I am more consumed by my latest work in progress. I have found a new path and I am excited to explore it. The creative muse has whispered in my ear, pointing me in a new direction.
I can’t take credit for all the creative endeavors in our family. My son, at age 17, is an accomplished and talented violist and has been writing and playing music since the age of nine. He is passionate about everything musical and takes inspiration from all genres of music from jazz to hip-hop to classical to video game music. The music he composes is a healthy and successful mashup of musical styles. You can hear a song he and Michelle Le just finished here.
My wife is also an artist. She is capable of producing wonderful pencil drawings, rich watercolors, beautiful quilts, has done weaving (she has a loom), spins wool (she has a spinning wheel) and she is a master of the knitting needles, which seems to be her current obsession. When it comes to instructions, however, she is not big on being told how to do something. Whether working from a cooking recipe or a knitting pattern she is more likely to improvise than follow what is printed. Her view parallels Captain Barbossa’s feelings about the Pirate’s Code in the movie Pirates of the Caribbean, “The Code is more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules…” So, my wife makes adjustments, pulls ideas from one pattern or recipe and another, substitutes ingredients, changes things when it suits her and stirs them all together into a uniquely new concoction.
What all of this is leading up to is this: I am finding out that I just might be a member of that club too. I have recently found myself stuck on several works in progress (see my blog post Focus!). One has been totally reworked to great benefit but has again come to a standstill, another work has been started but has set aside for now, and parts of a third project have been filed away to be used as a springboard for possible later projects. It suddenly dawned on me the other night that I can do what my wife and son does.
I can take a little from here and add something else from there, a pinch of this and a dash of that, stir them all together and voila! Something new and fresh! I realized that my various starts and restarts can be fashioned into a collection of short stories. If I reset all of them in the same small town and have some of the characters in one story make brief appearances in others, a cast of characters crisscrossing through scenes to loosely tie them all together, I will end up with a non-linear sort of portrait of a small town. I am not so naïve as to think that this kind of thing has never been done before, but for me it’s new, and my revelation helps to render stalled work in a new light.
I am excited and energized and suddenly new ideas for other characters and story lines have begun to present themselves. I love the idea of a collection of stand-alone stories that overlap at the corners to give them all a unifying component. I can’t wait to get back to my small town.
What do you do with all of those left over written bits littering your hard drive like so many pie crust trimmings? Do you ball them up and give them a second life baking them with a sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar or do they get discarded along with the egg shells?
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illustration by Andy Black