It’s 3 A.M. Why am I awake?

I notice the quiet darkness of early morning.  A bit of muffled traffic noise filters through my open window as I wonder if it’s better to get out of bed and really wake up or stay in one spot and hope to fall asleep again within seconds.

Depending on my schedule in the morning, waking up at 3 a.m. can be unnerving. A good night’s sleep for me is as restorative as all the hype says it is. Some nights, however, I wake up far too early. The mental argument of whether sleep will reoccur within moments or get up and do something since I am awake anyway keeps me…awake.

The resolution? Get up. Go to my writing room and curl up in my easy chair. Get out paper, pencil or turn on the computer and write.

Whether it is the muse, the moon, the subconscious or the quiet, working in combination or individually to stimulate the flow of ideas and details to create words, blog entries or stories, I don’t know. I like to believe it is all that and something more that doesn’t have a name.

The smartest thing I can do when I can’t get back to sleep is head to my writing space. Answer the call. Trust that there is a reason, one deeper that I can understand, at work here to get me to the words.

The practice is full proof. I am never disappointed in what I create between 3 and 5 in the morning.

Before I began this entry, I generated a list of 26 topic possibilities for this blog. It’s rich fodder for future compositions. Best of all, I started my day with my own writing, even if I head back to sleep for a couple more hours.

Learning in the Dark

(Originally hand-written on July 1)

I notice how I grope in the dark, flipping on and off light switches in spite of the fact that my electricity’s been down for over two days.

I need to know about sea anemones. At this very minute. A scene in my fantasy novel calls for my mermaid to swim among such sea plants while a storm is about to blow.

How do anemones react in churning water? Do they wave their jelly-like arms or do they close into themselves until seas become calm? Is a “bed” of anemones the appropriate term to describe them?

My personal library has quite a few books on sea life. I’ve scanned some, read some, post-noted many pages, written out facts on index cards and in notebooks.

But it is oh-so-easy to click an Internet search engine and type in “sea anemones” and look at the results. It’s always right at my fingertips.

But now I am in the dark.

I depleted my laptop battery juices last night. During daylight, I edit my novel using pencil and a paper copy of the book I had run off a few weeks ago when I gave three copies out to readers for the final critique.

Good, old-fashioned planning and foreshadowing.

Computer technology and all its accompaniments display the genius of the twenty-first century. Nevertheless, to keep all that technology humming, I continue to require the creative invention of the 1800s by Thomas Alva Edison–electricity.

And thank goodness for something even older than Edison–fire.

Lately, lighting candles has taken on more dimensions than romance and ambience.

 

 

Daydream, Fantasy, Alligator, Mermaid

I notice a white cement alligator in a wood chip garden path in midwest Ohio.

I confess. The alligator is in my backyard. I didn’t buy it, but I didn’t talk the buyer out of purchasing it either. So there it lurks between the black-eyed susans and the honeysuckle, scaring no one. But it serves a purpose. It represents someone’s fantasy or daydream.

Not mine. But I can relate.

You know when you daydream while listening to a lecture? or staring out the window of a car? or after reading a good passage from a book? They are fantasies.

When I was a kid, I daydreamed about being a horse or an eagle like a lot of children. As I grew up, the horse and eagle fantasies passed on but not the mermaid. She aged with me from young adult to adult. She didn’t occur too often, but when she did, it was usually before falling asleep.

My first desire in producing fiction was to capture my mermaid daydream. I honed my writing skills by creating a variety of short stories. After eight months, I was ready to pen my fantasy.

The story took maybe three hundred words on less than two pages. That was it. The fantasy, which had been with me for almost my whole lifetime, contained one scene: a mermaid swimming to shore and a man finding her.

Three years later, the narration fills more than 200 pages and over 60,000 words.

That’s quite a daydream for a writer from Ohio about a mermaid from the Caribbean.

On Grandma’s Kitchen Table

I notice my grandparents’ 1930s red-topped kitchen table. The top of it is somewhat organized with a copier, laptop, lamp, pencils and notebooks as it lives its second life as my desk in my writing room.

Stephen King describes his writing space where he penned his first books Carrie and Salem’s Lot in his Memoir on the Craft: On Writing. It wasn’t pretty–an old kid’s desk sort of thing squashed in an area next to the washer and dryer of a double-wide trailer.

Today, his desk is a lot bigger and more fitting a professional writer, but his point on writing surfaces isn’t on the furniture; it’s on the writing.

King says, “The space can be humble…, it really needs only one thing: a door which you are willing to shut.”

But it’s so easy to slip into focusing on the organization of a writing space and procrastinate on the writing.

I’ve imagined my DESK. It’s wide-topped, cherry wood, drawers down one side, narrow drawer just under the topside, maybe a shelving attachment for laptop and printer. Or not. Maybe it’s the old-fashioned, just mahogany and drawers type like the guys on the TV show Mad Men use in their offices.

Oh, the glorious tales I could create if I had one of those.

In reality, my grandparents’ table has a small, segmented drawer in the front made for silverware. It’s where my grandmother stored her butcher knives. It has two hinged leaves on either side to extend the surface space as desired. Thick stainless steel legs with rotting rubber tips hold it up.

My grandmother was the best cook and kindest soul. I’d see her every Sunday along with fifteen or more other relatives. We’d eat oven-baked, breaded chicken and chicken soup. In the evening, before we’d all head home, we’d make ice cream sodas. All homemade. All delicious. All eaten at the red kitchen table.

To date, I’ve written this blog, several short stories, two biographies, a fantasy novel and more using her table.

My desk isn’t going anywhere. It’s energy is too good.

The Antsy-ness of Lazy

I notice the hot embers of the last log burning out in the fire pit. Like a reptile, its skin of cornered segments pulsates degrees of redness in between the cracks.

I took the day off from writing. My immediate deadlines were met. Why not celebrate with guilt-free laziness? I sat on the back porch, water fountain bubbling nearby, huge old maple tree shading my head. I alternated between reading a fantasy about shape shifters of the animal variety and staring through the weaving of branches and leaves above me. I’d finally Imagefinish this book in a few hours.

But I was antsy. I moved over to the sunnier porch. I watered flowers. Even tried a nap. Then back to the book until it was done.

Near dark the fire was fresh and full of blue yellow flames of burning sticks and tree trimmings. I roasted a few marshmallows and sat staring in the night, fireflies rising from the ground, muffled traffic sounds in the distance.

The last flicker of blue died. The lazy day was finally done.

I curl up in my easy chair in my writing room, reading a Writer’s Digest magazine and taking notes before I fall asleep.

Of Birds and Book Business

I notice warm, moist air blowing in through the window at my back.

The breeze is not hot enough to kick on the air conditioning unit. I listen to the birds and their variety of staccato chirping a while longer.

I identify a few bird songs but not many. The amount of study needed to recognize more is intensive.

Navigating the publishing business is as intensive and its rules as unique as bird calls. It’s unlike many fields where showing up and doing the work begins the familiarity.  In professional writing, I sit here, at my desk, and hope that someone out there will take on my work and make it public. My familiarity comes from attending workshops, making connections and reading books and websites. And even then I am sure I have so much more to learn.

A baby grackle squawks for food or mother or both.

Artificially cooled air flows over the room from a ceiling register. I slam shut the window.

The only sound is the clacking of my computer keys.

“Today is My Moment. Now is My Story.”

I can’t be contented with yesterday’s glories.

I can’t live on promises, winter to spring.

Today is my moment. Now is my story.

I’ll laugh and I’ll cry and I’ll sing.

 

The weather has been unusually warm for January in Ohio, but today may be the last one full of sunshine and snowless ground. I put my laptop into sleep mode and drive out to a small lake and sit on a picnic table. A slight breeze ripples the water. I scrunch my hat over my ears and draw up my legs. A winter 50 degrees is still cold.

I count 167 Canada goose floating just offshore. Three doze, necks turned backward, beaks nestled into feathers.  All are quiet until two others fly in and land. But after a few honks, they bob in silence. I’m sure their kind have been bobbing on cold winter lakes for centuries.

It’s what they know how to do.

I slip my legal pad under my thigh. It’s blank.

I’m at a difficult place in my search for a literary agent. Time is running out on the one who held the most promise. I’ve got to start all over. Back to rewriting a query letter, reexamining the synopsis, maybe editing my novel’s opening.

Getting published is not what I know how to do. At least not with expertise. My “yesterday’s glories” were teaching high school English. Give me a text and a blank screen and I’d have an effective lesson plan drawn up in no time.

In my head, I hear John Denver singing a song called “Today.”

I pull out my paper and scribble down a few ideas.

“Now is my story.”

I love writing. In time and with experience, I’m sure I’ll be an old hand with the professional end of it as well.

Another pair of geese honk as they fly in and settle with the group. Four others honk back in return. The bobbing continues.

 

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