In Which Our Heroine Briefly Ponders Story Ideas

8 March 2004

I think I'm going to have to go all Protestant and disagree with Bear's doctrine of works this morning. Bear says, "Besides, if I didn't read nonfiction obsessively, look for neat things, watch documentaries, and talk to new people, I would never get half the story ideas I get. I'm with Bradbury and Waldrop on this one: the more you read and the more you look at and the more you do, the more ideas you get. Ideas are like scrip; they have to earned." And I'm with her up to the last sentence.

I think it's good to read nonfiction (and fiction) obsessively, look for neat things, watch documentaries, and talk to new people (or old people doing something new). All of that is nifty. But ideas, ideas are grace. You don't get good ideas because you're a hard worker, because you do all the right things, because you've trained for it. Working hard and training your brain and doing all the right things help you to be able to actually recognize things as good ideas and develop them when you get them. But there will be whole stretches where nonfiction inspires nothing at all, not even a title or an epigraph. (At least, there used to be....) There will be people more brilliant than you, more talented, more creative, more quirky, who read the same book you've just read and do not get your idea out of it. Or any idea at all. You can cultivate ideas when they come; you can maybe learn how to twist a lame idea around until it looks good. But you can't earn the good ideas by doing things right.

More's the pity.

I did stuff right yesterday: I did not get caught up in reading The Wild Machines. I made myself leave it be while I talked to the folks and got ready for Em and Amber and the puppy to come for dinner and caught up on the last of my February e-mail and jotted a few more words on a few stories. And only read 50 pages of The Wild Machines, which I think is the epitome of restraint.

I'm having my usual Monday problem: I look at the to-do list for the week and think of all kinds of things I need to add to it. Many of them I should have added before, but it's Monday, and I've retained that aspect of a normal working life if no others. Maybe I should trade it in for a week or so of pure vacation....

Paul Douglas TheWeatherGuy lied to us. The paper said no snow this week, no precipitation, we're clear, we're fine, it'll all melt. And it started with picture-postcard flakes around 9:30, and an hour later there's enough to shovel and it's still coming. And it's slippery and horrid. My theory is that March snow is to make us grateful for spring. It's not as nice as other snows. But I have books to write and bread to bake; I can stay in where it's warm today and work and maybe read just a tiny bit more of The Wild Machines. Just a scoche. Maybe.

"Trail's End" is up at Alien Skin for your reading pleasure. This Orvokki, she's in other stuff. Like, oh, say, the Not The Moose. But she's much younger and much, much less of a hermit in that. This is a bagatelle. The Not The Moose is the whole symphony. And back to the last movement....

Back to Novel Gazing.

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