Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Cleaning off winter’s dust

Spring is coming to Ottawa — I can tell because the snow is getting dirty and the birds are starting to chirp (“Hey! We’re freezing out here!”)

Photo by D. Gordon E. Robertson, licensed under Wikipedia Creative Commons.
A change of season always inspires me to take on new projects, and to resolve to complete those half-done tasks like organizing the basement and cleaning the garage. Time to take the skis and skates, shovels and snowblower, and stack them away neatly until next November (if we’re lucky; January if we’re not); time to pull out garden hoses, rakes, gardening tools and rubber boots. Time to take out the bikes, re-inflate the tires, tighten the seat, oil the chain and adjust the brakes. Time to gather up all those little things that I just put down wherever was handy through the winter and put them in their proper places.

Whenever I do things like this, I find so many things that I had thought were lost or that I had forgotten completely. The same is true of my writing: whenever I straighten up the papers scattered around my study (“Not often enough,” my long-suffering, lovely wife adds from offstage.” I’m doing it now!) I find little notes, longer notes, outlines and partial drafts from months or years ago — ideas for stories or novels that I wrote down and forgot about since.

The messy office. Photo by allysa/Creative Commons.
Now that spring is here and my second novel is (mostly) wrapped — at least, the creative part —I feel energized again to move forward and finish my third novel, tentatively titled Walking from the Soviet Union. And the next one, where I’ll be completing Dark Clouds, the first book in an imagined series about the Witch Queen’s Son.

The advantage of finding notes after I’ve forgotten about them is that they lose their baggage in the process. My notes are short forms for my ideas, a few words or phrases to trigger the thoughts I had. But after a number of months, a lot of those ideas are forgotten, lost under the dark waves of what passes for my mind.

But that frees me. Unlike my bicycle or the kids’ basketball net, the passage of time does not leave a thick layer of dust and grime and god-knows-what-its-source-is goo on ideas. They’re more like driftwood, cleansed of clinging assumptions, associations, emotions, stripped down to the true essence of an idea.

I'm expanding Dark Clouds
from a short story to
a novel eventually.
Like this one for Dark Clouds, the novel I seem to be writing in installments timed with special events. I had almost forgotten this little nuance to the back-story: “Matt is immune to magic; he can break or absorb the Witch Queen’s spells, but every time he does so, he must give her a piece of his life-string.”

See? I had thought of a deeper dimension to the story, the idea of a price that the hero has to pay for every favour; every victory he earns furthers his ultimate defeat.

Wow. That sounds great, and looks better on the page. Now, it’s time to buckle down and write!

Your turn: does springtime inspire you to start something new? Or to finish an incomplete project, artistic or otherwise? Tell us all in the comments block below.

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