The difference between the right word and almost the right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.
There’s been plenty of lightning and thunder the past few weeks around here.
It’s been bright and loud and unexpected and wild and relentless. I am not afraid of the lightning and thunder at all. Mom says I am afraid of so many things, I don’t have room in my brain to be afraid of storms. Actually, I kind of like these crazy storms, because they make Mom stay home with me.
I also kind of like lightning bugs.
Whenever Mom takes me out at night, I see those blinky things flying all over the place. She won’t let me chase them, though. She says, “Don’t pull me!” and “Heel!!” and “That’s enough craziness for one day. It’s time for bed.” I haven’t caught a lightning bug yet. But when I do, I’m pretty sure it’ll taste like lemon candy.
Mom is not nuts about storms or bugs, but she is nuts about words. They are her favorite things in the world (besides me).
She writes words and counts words and reads the words out loud to herself. Then she deletes them and changes them and takes some out and puts some new ones in. She is ALWAYS looking for the right word.
Mom says adverbs are poison. I am not allowed to eat poison. I tried it once and it wasn’t fun.
Mom uses SmartEdit to find the poison adverbs and get rid of them and then she searches in the Thesaurus to replace them with a perfect verb that does the same job only better. “Walked quickly, looked carefully, and laughed loudly” are OUT. “Raced, inspected, and roared” are IN.
Maybe tonight, “Heel” will be OUT and “Gulp. Slurp. Yum- Lemon” will be IN.
Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.
I use my imagination a lot. Mostly I imagine things that are trying to kill me and then I try to hide from them. Mom drags me near them to show me that they’re not dangerous. That makes me shiver. Sometimes, she picks me up and carries me, but sometimes she is just not in the mood, so we cross the street and decide to fight that battle another time.
I use my imagination to pretend things too. I pretend the street is my bed.
I pretend Mom is going to take me with her in the car.
And I pretend she won’t notice if I walk on the glass table as if it’s the floor.
Mom uses her imagination a lot, too. She tells the students she visits that they should always start with a tiny, little seed of an idea and make it grow by mind-writing. That’s because even though an idea is a good beginning, the best parts of the stories she writes come from her imagination.
Imagination comes easy for both of us, but knowledge is TOUGH. Mom has some knowledge, but not the kind that has to do with math. I have a tiny brain, so there isn’t a lot of room for knowledge in there. In spite of this, Mom insists on teaching me new things all the time. She says, “Find it!” and “Fetch it!” and “Drop it!” and “Touch it!” and “Leave it!” and “26+18?? GAH! Where’s the calculator?”
Lately, Mom is teaching me to find things by sniffing. Here I am trying to sniff out a bacon treat. I know it’s somewhere – In the boxes. Or near them. Or under the rug. Or behind the toy. Or…. GAH! Where’s the calculator?
“No more hurting people. Peace.”
It’s not always about looking forward to what’s ahead of you. Sometimes it’s all about looking back at the things that define you.
Mom likes looking ahead – to the next idea, the next manuscript, the next book, the next poem. But sometimes, she HAS to look back. It’s her worst part of writing. She gets ideas all the time, mind writes, writes on the computer, and takes her characters from the beginning to the end – not always in that order.
Then it’s time to revise. *gulp* She is forced to look back at the story she liked (loved) a lot and start deciding what she hates about it. There are even some rules to follow. Like the rule of three, building conflict, and making the ending special by solving a problem, bringing a twist, or circling back. Nobody likes rules. Ugh. Even though looking back is difficult, it has to be done because it makes stories better. So she looks back at every single story she writes, and fixes and fiddles and cuts and corrects and tightens and turns things upside down. Mission accomplished.
Mom looked back in her rear view mirror while we were driving to the Veteran’s Home on Saturday. This is what she saw.
It’s because of this!
I was heading to work to get petted, eat treats, cuddle, give kisses, and make people smile.
There’s a crack in everything – that’s how the light gets in.
There seems to be a crack in the head of my laughing dog. Plus his ear is missing.
I think his head accidentally cracked open because Mom turned on the switch and he started laughing too much. I’ve heard of “laughing your head off,” but I’ve never heard of “laughing your head open so the light can get in.”
Mom is always looking for where the light gets in. She says if her story is tight enough, nothing can crack it open. So she checks it and checks it. She says she’s troubleshooting. I don’t like trouble and I don’t like shooting, so I hope she is just kidding. But she reads her story out loud to herself all the time. She says, “Does the ending match the beginning?” and “Is my character believable?” and “How much does the problem really matter?” and “Where is the laughing dog’s ear?!”
Mom keeps deleting and rewriting sections of her story trying to make it perfect before she brings it to show her writing group named DavidLaurieandOtherDavid. She says, “Am I telling too much?” and “Am I showing enough?” and “I guess I’ll have to sew up the rip in his head.”
Mom might be able to make her story perfect, but as you can see, the laughing dog’s head will never be perfect again. I wonder where his ear went…..
Click the video to hear the laughing dog laugh.
Thanks to our writer friend, Chelsea at Jenny Mac Book Blog for giving us the Sunshine Award and to Bubba and Mumma and the gang at Bumpy Road to Bubba for giving us the Why I Love Thee Award. Click here for our Sunshine questions and answers, and here or here for the story of how Mom and I found each other. We love all our sunshiny blogging friends, so feel free to take an award or two and list your own Sunshine answers or Love Story.
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
I’m pretty sure this guy Stephen King knows a thing or two about writing. Mom believes him and takes his advice. She also forgives him for Cujo. I am not sure I do, though. *shiver*
Mom reads a lot and writes a lot every day. Well, maybe not a LOT…. But some every day. Well, maybe not EVERY day, but most days.
Mom reads children’s books, young adult books, grown-up books, blogs, magazines, websites, email, reviews, and books about being a writer. She takes some time to play bowling with me, take me for walks around the neighborhood, throw my toys, clean up piles and piles of dog hair from around the house, and dress me up.
She also works on new stories, old stories, stories about dogs, kids,and animals, stories from her November idea list, and poems. She takes some time out to cuddle with me, brush my teeth, give me treats, teach me tricks, and take me to Petco to have my nails cut.
It’s times like this that I wish she’d concentrate on her work…..
First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.
Mom decided what she would be a long, long time ago. (I wasn’t even born yet!) She liked writing stories and poetry, but she was a teacher, so she mostly just READ other people’s stories and poetry. Sometimes, she would write a little something during summer vacation or for a graduate school assignment, but she was a teacher, so the stories didn’t go anywhere. (I hate to tell her this, but that’s because she didn’t send them anywhere.)
One day she was strolling around a craft show at the park. (If I were with her, there would have been less strolling and more playing on the swings.)
At one of the booths a man was selling wooden desk plates with jobs on them. Mom bought the TEACHER one, right away. That was a no-brainer. Then she saw the WRITER one. She picked it up and put it down a hundred times, trying to decide whether to buy it. She said no, then yes, then no, then YES! That was the first time she thought of herself as an actual writer and not just a teacher who sometimes writes.
She kept that wooden thing for all these years. It’s on top of her bulletin board, and she looks at it every single day.
When she did what she had to do, it came true. All she had to do was:
- Write every day.
- Play fetch with me.
- Read piles and piles of picture books.
- Take me for a walk.
- Find a critique group (or 3).
- Bring me to Petco.
- Join SCBWI and attend a conference (or 3).
- Buy me toys and treats.
- Study about how to be a better writer.
- Give me a bath, brush my teeth, and have my nails cut.
- Revise a lot.
- Go to work with me at the VA.
- Just plain CUT a lot of words, even if she really really liked them.
- Pick out dresses for me to wear.
- Submit stuff to agents and publishers.
- And study new tricks with me.
Nothin’ to it, right?
Creativity is intelligence having fun.
Did somebody say, “FUN?” I love fun!
Toys are fun,
and new toys are even more fun.
Treats are fun,
and new toys that have treats in them are the MOST fun.
Mom has fun being a writer. It’s fun getting a new idea, fun mind-writing about the idea, fun typing the title and her name, and fun getting from the beginning to the end of the story by typing and talking to herself every day. It’s also fun working on the story with DavidLaurieandOtherDavid, which is the name of Mom’s writing group.
It’s NOT a lot of fun for Mom when she has to change her story after she reads it for a while, talks about it at her group, and tries not to look at it for a few days. That part makes her talk to herself even more, sit and stare at the computer for long amounts of time without typing, and drink a lot of coffee. Sometimes she says, “I may have to start from scratch.” She doesn’t say that in a fun way, but I wait nicely right next to her because if there’s scratching involved, I am on board!
There is no such thing as failure. There are only results.
Mom and I do not even believe in failure. We can’t. It would make things too difficult. When I try to learn new things like fetching (yes, I consider that “new” even though I’ve been trying to learn it for two years), Mom never says, “Forget it.” or “This is an epic fail.” She always says, “Try it again.” and “Almost.” and “Not the couch! Not the couch!! NOT THE COUCH!!! Ugh!”
Apparently, bringing the ball on the couch is not fetching, which is unfortunate because I’m really good at that. I’ve been practicing that for two years.
When Mom gets rejections, she does not think that is failure, either. She says, “It’s the nature of the beast.” (*shiver* I don’t like beasts at all.) Mom knows that authors get rejections, so she takes them in stride.
It’s not her favorite result, but it’s just a result and not the end of the world. 12x12in’12 helps Mom to keep on keeping on, so she writes more stories and different stories and doesn’t waste time being sad about rejections because writing is not sad. It’s fun.
Fetching, on the other hand – NOT fun.
They fall, and falling they’re given wings.
I fall a lot. When I try to catch a toy, I sometimes stretch and fall off the couch. If I look out the window, I sometimes fall off the arm of the chair and get squooshed against the wall.
When I run, I sometimes slide and fall over when I hit the dresser or cabinets. Falling is not a problem for me. That being said, I am never given wings.
Mom doesn’t fall on the floor, like I do, but when her work comes back rejected, it’s like a fall for her. Most of the time, Mom LOVES the mailman, but when he brings rejection letters, she says, “This mail is stupid.” and “Why does the mailman hate me?” and “You can’t balance like that for very long. Don’t you know that by now?”
Clearly, no wings for her either.
Mom’s stories and poems do get wings when they fall. They suddenly get busted out of the computer and Mom reads them and changes them around and reads them and makes them shorter and reads them and makes them longer and reads them and makes them better. After a few days (or weeks) of that, those stories and poems go flying back to the mailbox to new publishers. Wings!