03 May 2007

Process This

Late in the day, but still here. I've had a story idea eating me whole, so it's not at all unusual to forget things like putting the cat food dish down in the cat's eating area and instead leave it on the counter and trot back to the office to bang out the next section of outline. I've gone through an entire legal pad in a very short time, and am now resorting to its matching shopping list until I can find a replacement, killed a favorite pen dead, and the particular sticky notes I've been using are not long for this world. These things matter.

In some of my preferred historical periods, my process might be considered eccentric at best, a ticket to Bedlam at worst. Normally when I talk about starting a new project, I'll prepare a compostion book with a collaged cover and attatched bookmark, and all notes go right in there, nice and easy. For work on a Georgian-set book, for example, I'll collect decorative papers by Anna Griffin to alter, distress or combine with images culled from other sources. StockXChng is a good place to start browsing for stock images of everything from people (I prefer closeups of hands, eyes, etc -- easier not to be distracted by modern clothing or props) to gardens, buildings, and miscellaneous items. There's even a menu that allows searching for images by mood. If you get the Rhapsody romance book club, the newsletters are great for images. Spread out on the floor and combine in different ways until it feels right.

If I start in a different sort of notebook (as with this project, where I started with a legal pad -- but an Anna Griffin legal pad -- flowers and paisley) then if I fill that one, I need to pick up a new one that is the same. Or close enough. It has to feel right in my hands, beneath my fingertips, and be up to getting toted around in my purse. I will become crochety if I run out, hence my now working on the matching shopping list paper that came with the fancy legal pad. I am like my historical heroines. I will make do with what I have while fighting for what I want. They had to get it from somewhere.

There's music, of course. I think a monster sprang to life when I acquired my first mp3 player. Though the entertainment factor of me trying to figure out new hardware was quite amusing for my family (I'm a scream at the offending bunch of circuits type person) the absolute joy of having Sting snuggle up to Mary Chapin Carpenter (there's an image) backed up by Meat Loaf, Eva Cassidy and Great Big Sea, all somehow mingling to whisk me back to Tudor era Scotland, Cromwell's England (he'd object, I know, but I didn't ask him) or the eighteenth century Carribbean somewhow feels right.

I'm well aware that some of the clerks in my favorite candle stores probably watch me funny when I come in and sniff things for very long periods of time, but it's important. Where else can the average modern woman find out exactly what the combination of woodsmoke, red wine and sea air can do to the senses? Leather, roses and fresh cotton? Fresh peaches and lilacs, but it's in the middle of December? Sometimes we need to know these things.

We all have peculiarities in our processes, things that those on the outside might not think go together in the general scheme of things. How on earth could we be looking right at something very modern, very straightforward and instantly be transported centuries and half a world away? I like to call it writervision. If they have to ask, they won't understand. They don't have to; for some, books are like laws and sausages. They're glad to have them, but don't really want to see how they're made.

What parts of your process make perfect sense to you but not everyone else?


Morag McKendrick Pippin said...

What parts of your process make perfect sense to you but not everyone else?

My messy, messy desk! My research notes are spread all over my desk and its large return. I know approximately where everything is. I gave up neat piles when my two giant Maine Coons started nesting on my desk, the return, the printer, or curled around my laptop. They scatter everything. If I pick up everything they scatter on the floor I couldn't keep up writing. But my Princelings are my muses and I can't write without them. I need their encouraging purrs and a poke with a paw every now and then to remind me there's something there besides my laptop:-) My messy work area drives my husband bats. The only time my desk is orderly is between books.
I could NEVER get away with forgetting to feed them! They howl constantly until I fix their food. Sometimes they decide they'll feed themselves by leaping onto the kitchen counter, pushing off the can of food, wrestling off the plastic top and going to town as far as their faces will fit into the can. If I leave chicken or seafood out to thaw on the counter they rip through the wrapping and enjoy a good munch.
That's just to let me know I've spent far too much time on the computer instead of playing with them!

Anna said...

Maine Coons! I love Maine Coons! I had one who did exactly as Morag said, shoving his face as far into the can as it would go. Everyone should be owned by a Maine Coon at least once in their lives.

I currently share my writing space with a petite domestic longhair who nevertheless can take up all the space between me and the keyboard or screen --sometimes both-- or come up and do her banshee scream while shooting daggers with her eyes. Some catsitter I am, playing with that glowy box instead of her!

Morag McKendrick Pippin said...

I agree, Anna! Everyone should be owned by a Maine Coon sometime! These felines rule our household with firm paws. Fergus, 25 pounds, sleeps on head. After giving my scalp a good kneed he settles in for good snore. It's a toss up who is louder, my husband, Loren, or Fergus. Sinji, 19 pounds, nests on my feet, or under my chin or wedged between Loren and me. Yes, our bed sleeps four:-) Unless the Princelings can find a way to kick Loren and me out . . .