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Nailed it on the head. Article from today's Alb. Journal.


Monday, August 20, 2007

Scraps Help Us Writers Nail It

By Arnold Vigil
For the Journal
ORALE! SANTA FE: I'll be the first to admit that there's quite of lot of mystery involved in being a writer and that obscure area of the mind where ideas come from isn't always easy to describe. That's why a lot of times you see us egghead writer types at work with our feet propped up on the desk and staring out the window with a faraway look in our eyes, searching for inspiration.
That's also the reason you won't see too many writer types working the front counter at the motor-vehicles field office, or as a teller in a bank on busy payday Friday or as a cashier at the local convenience store where only one register is open during coupon happy hour.
You also won't see too many scribes working in the construction industry, either, because a foreman will take one look at a writer seeking inspiration under a shade tree, looking up at the puffy clouds during a concrete pour, and then send the thoughtful fella home with a bruise on his como se llama from a well-placed steel-toed work boot.

Flow of ideas
But in all reality, writers can be hard to spot in a crowd, that is if they're not working in a job where most eyes in the room are upon them and there's an impatient customer in line complaining that proper procedure isn't being followed because the idiot on the other side of the counter keeps meandering off into the ozone.
Writers come in all shapes and sizes, and the only thing that is more varied than their packaging is the source of their ideas, which basically come from— drumroll please— who in the heck knows where?
Sometimes, I just can't help but think that the idea well is much like the unseen aquifer— you can only draw from it for a certain length of time before it has to be recharged again. Otherwise you really have to dig deeper and deeper for what you're looking for.
In my case, I compare the accumulation of ideas for a story with a general handyman, one of those resourceful types who saves every little screw, washer, spring, oddly shaped plastic fitting, spark plug, piece of hose, doorknob, cabinet handle, flashlight bulb, rubber band, pocket knife, nail, wire, bracket and whatever else might come in handy in the future.
And you can tell a handy man who's on the ball because in his workshop he has all of these little knicknacks organized into glass jars and buckets, sliding trays and racks, hooks and rafters, behind workbenches, and other hidden stash places where only he can find them. In fact, on the back of this handyman's little beat-up pickup with a black utility rack and silver toolbox there's a bumper sticker that reads, "Save Your Nuts and Bolt."

Bits and pieces
You see, sometimes writers have this smorgasbord of random ideas that they stash in the far corners of their minds, ready to be retrieved in a pinch. Just like the handyman's stash of doohickeys, which one by itself doesn't really mean anything except rubbish, but when it fits in perfectly as a piece of the puzzle it's as good as gold. Because who wants to drive all the way down Cerrillos Road to Big Jo's to buy a little piece of $%!# part that you threw away just last week because you got tired of seeing it around for years and thought you'd never need it in a million years?
So that's why when you read these columns, sometimes they seem a little nuts and every once in a while you feel like you've been screwed (especially when the vending machine took your money and your had to out another 50 cents in to get a paper).
Or maybe something was missing and just one little piece, a scrap nail perhaps, could have held it all together or, maybe, made it make a little more sense. But honestly, sometimes after cooking up a cheesy column you end up with more spare parts than you started with, just like the kid's bicycle on Christmas morning.
When that happens sometimes I have a hard time realizing there are other choices than going out and getting hammered. Who cares if someone took one of these creations apart with their own stash of literary chisels? There's always a new project down the line and the public has a short memory, because in this business it's always about, "What have you done for me lately?"
OK, a well-thought-out story line is the best way to go and if you want a solid structure you shouldn't be using spare parts and scraps, anyway. But when that writing deadline comes roaring down the track like a runaway locomotive and there's little time to save yourself much less the children, those salvaged ideas come in pretty handy. Especially when the library is closed, the Internet's been down, it's been a slow news week or the kids haven't done something so terribly darling that I felt I just had to share it with the rest of the world.

Pieced together
So there you have it, I've essentially just admitted that I'm a scrappy writer, just like that short scrappy basketball player who seems to come up with the loose ball amongst the trees in the paint or that short-order cook who'll complete the meal to the delight of an unknowing customer even though it's really not quite what the menu promised.
Yep, whenever I get around to writing my epic novel it won't be "War and Peace," it'll probably be "War and Pieces." It won't be "Ben-Hur," it'll be "Bien-Blur." Or maybe it could be based on that historic village formerly known as San Juan Pueblo and I'll call it, "I'm Ohkay, You're Ohkay."
But enough of that malarkey, let's get back to that shed full of salvaged hardware and ideas, also known at my casa as the doghouse. And believe you me, with a pair of loose-fitting smarty pants like mine, I'm always in there looking for something.
In fact, I was in there just last night looking for some leftover ideas from the last story that would have securely tied this column together so I wouldn't have to go to the light-bulb store at the eleventh hour.
Now if only I could have remembered where I put them, I might have nailed it.



Interesting quote posted on one of my writing lists.

Quotation from a Writer's Digest interview with multi-published dark-novel writer Chuck Palahniuk:

"I know so many writers who are a hundred times better than me and have longer, greater ideas than mine, but they gave up; they stopped. The biggest talent you can have is determination. Do you use the writing process as your ongoing excuse to keep exploring the world, meeting people and learning things? If you can do that, then the writing itself will be its own payoff and reward."

Gotta think about that for a while.

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