Monday, September 18, 2006

Kathleen Returns From Writer's Runaway

I go away for a week and miss the welcome party for Deb Dixon--Hey, Deb, great to have you in the car with us!--the farewell to my buddy, Anne(you guys, that PALE IMMORTAL is not to be missed!)--and gorgeous evidence of Betina's shoe fetish (Man, talk about your blog full of, er, your BOOK OF TRUE DESIRES)about which I could wax nostalgic for a good long piece, having suffered with ECHFE (Early Childhood Huge Foot Embarassment). It affects one's relationship with shoes. But I won't go there today. (Man! Did I ever wreak havoc with punctuation in that paragraph! And the fact that I have to mention this just shows how I struggle to get out of my own way. Again, I digress.)

Instead, I bring photos from my Writer's Runaway. I escaped to Indian Country in south central ND, setting of the story I'm working on now. It (working title MYSTIC HORSEMAN, which will undoubtedly be changed) is a sequel to RIDE A PAINTED PONY (Nov 28, remember) and the advantage to that is in knowing at least one of the main characters pretty well. But they're two totally different stories--different tone, pace, focus, relationships--so shifting from one to the other is tricky.

I know what the story's about--sort of; surprises are part of the process--and I've named and begun to flesh out the new characters. I've moved into the middle stage of the writing. Not the middle of the book, but the middle part of my process. It's the toughest part, and it takes discipline. And I'd rather try to discipline anyone but myself. (Still, after all these years of living, I kid myself about such a thing being feasible.)

But the big problem is THE REAL WORLD. I needed to get my head into the heart of the new story, and I've been letting every worldly problem, real or imagined, distract me from THE WORK. Unlike most jobs, THE WORK isn't really part of THE REAL WORLD.

Yet, it is. First picture: sunrise behind the casino hotel. (Don't imagine Vegas, now. Or Mystic Lake, or anything close.) You don't get this kind of sky in my part of MN. Too many trees. Too many people, houses, roads. And they're the wrong people, houses, trees and roads for THE WORK. This story is about community and family and people who might have been born anywhere, but most of the characters are somehow grounded here. And being here reminds me of what that means--to be or not to be grounded in this beautiful, very isolated place.

Second picture: my work space for the week. Typical hotel room. I'm stuck here. No refrigerator. Despite the usual casino buffet, I lost a actually couple of pounds. There was wireless internet, but--key decision for my success--I resisted the urge to hook up. Satellite dish wasn't pointed to my favorite channels--well, except for HBO; I did get in on "Real Time With Bill Mahr" and "The Wire." Missed "Project Runway"! And I had no one around expecting anything from me or--and this is also key--who presumably needs me checking up on them whenever they get near me. I made a commitment not to call out and only broke it once or twice. Clyde called in once or twice a day. That was it! Otherwise, it was just me and the computer. Me and the notebook. Me and the head finally truly fully filling up with visions and voices.

Final picture: sunset on the statuary in front of the casino. No matter what title we end up with, I will always remember MYSTIC HORSEMAN. And this is why. The romance, the legends, the ideals, the expectations--some unfulfilled and some always floating around out there--are all weaving their way into the story. I'm so not into genre definitions, which is why the vagueries of "women's fiction" will just have to stop bothering me. I can't write a story designed to fit neatly into a more specific niche. I just have to write it the way I see it. And getting away for a week really helped me get a better focus during this middle stage of the writing. Highly recommend it. Will definitely do it again.

What do other people do to make the world go away for more than just an hour or two?


Debra Dixon said...

Oh, my gosh, Kathy. Those pics are incredible. Makes me want to go somewhere and settle in to write!

A few friends and I have what we call a Mantra Mania weekend every so often and we'll slip off to a cabin on a lake and refill the well. We'll have time for brainstorming, quiet time for working each day and we always each bring some sort of self-awareness activity to help re-center our creative selves. If that makes sense!

Betina Krahn said...

Oh, Deb that sounds great. I'm all for the creative getaway.

But in the shorter term, I think music via headphones is my ticket. It really cuts out distractions and I swear it stimulates the cerebral cortex-- makes the neurons fire faster. I always writer better with the headphones on!

If I really want to get away. . . headphones and a great book. . .

And maybe a big, refreshing glass of lemony iced tea. . .

anne frasier said...

kathleen, i'm so glad you had a productive week! i kept wondering how that was going for you. didn't want to say this before you left, but my body can't take those like long writing gigs anymore.

i once mentioned that i rented a place for a month. i swear within two days my body was SCREAMING in pain. i realized i needed reasons to actually detatch myself from the computer. mail. dishes. laundry. cat. birds. those tedious chores were saving my ass. :D