I hope you will go out and let stories happen to you, and that you will work them, water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom,
till you yourself burst into bloom. ~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes
I’ve mentioned before that I’m usually a one-project-at-a-time kinda writer. It seems my brain and creative juices struggle when I switch focus. BUT. I think it’s a good skill to cultivate, juggling projects, so I bought myself a brand new notebook for a brand new middle-grade novel idea I’d like to noodle on while working on my work-for-hire nonfiction project. If you hear the sound of shrieking gears, that’ll be my brain right before I burst into bloom.
I’m trying to add layers of text to my nonfiction picture book and am feeling a bit overwhelmed by the gap between my vision for this project and the reality of what it looks like thus far. In my mind, this project is pure AWESOME. However, the manuscript currently feels more like a collection of fits and starts.
So I’m posting this magic mushroom as a reminder of how intricate details come together to create a whole. One gorgeous layer at a time.
So much of our current reality causes me outrage, fear, and anxiety. It’s gotten so that I struggle with getting out of bed in the morning. But today I’m grateful for a new writing project that brings me happiness.
Yarrow’s Spiny Lizard. Greenhouse Trail, Cave Creek Canyon. May 14, 2019
I’m always at my best when fully immersed in a project, especially when the subject matter involves the glories of our natural world, and so this dapper lizard feels like the perfect guide for today’s work.
Let’s say you were contacted to write a 48-page children’s non-fiction book in a series about World Leaders. You may or may not be interested in taking on the project when you see how low the work-for-hire payment is, but there’s a possibility you’d at least consider it.
Okay, now what if that 48-page children’s non-fiction book in a series about World Leaders was specifically about the current White House occupant?
Is there any dollar amount that would get you to YES?
Because I finished my middle-grade revisions yesterday, I wanted to spend today zeroing in on a nonfiction project. So I sat down with the research books I’d checked out from the library a couple weeks ago and started reading. The topic I’d chosen was intentionally broad in the hopes that after pitching it, I’d be allowed to highlight different aspects in a series of books.
But my intentionally broad topic suddenly felt way-too-broad, and I knew I didn’t have the necessary enthusiasm to sustain me.
As I leafed through my nonfiction idea notebook, my brain started buzzing with other possibilities. So many projects had potential! So many projects sounded fun!
Buzzzz, buzzz, buzzzz……………..
My brain was overwhelmed by all those ideas and I needed to focus, damnit.
So I put on a metaphoric beekeeper suit.
After donning that protective gear, I wasn’t nearly as troubled by the many buzzing possibilities, and I’m pleased to say I was able to zero in on an idea with a series potential. Bonus: it’s stuff I’m excited to write about!
I just turned in the second of two nonfiction projects due this month.
Oh, happy day!
Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy nonfiction.
I love the research and
the learning and
the challenge of distilling all that information for young readers.
But right now I’m happy happy happy
knowing that I’m (temporarily, at least) going back
where it is not necessary to footnote every single sentence.
I’ve spent the past couple days researching nonfiction project ideas and it’s been a joy because the planet’s animal inhabitants are incredibly diverse and mind-blowingly freaky in their behaviors. I could read forever.
But I can’t read forever because I need to make a decision. I need to choose a topic and start writing. The problem is I want to write about all the things that fascinate and entertain and expand my world view. All. The. Things.
I’ve started three different Scrivener files, adding research sources and roughing out drafts. And then my brain says “But there’s also that other cool thing. Maybe it would be best to write about that right now.”
I’ve never had this problem with fiction. I decide what story to work on and away I go. Over the years I have revisited fiction projects, which to the casual observer might look like indecisive bouncing around, but I’ve never experienced anything like this. Which is kind of strange considering that the planet’s human inhabitants are also incredibly diverse and mind-blowingly freaky in their behaviors. I mean, there’s a lot to choose from there, too.
I’d love to be assigned a topic, but that’s not happening right now. So I’m going to make a decision because, like this guy says: You heard it here first.
Yesterday I sent off the manuscript for the first book of mine that will be published. It’s a short work-fore-hire book about composting and how to build a compost tumbler. (One of my critique partners (yo, LP!) is a nonfiction goddess who guided me every step of the way as I applied to the editorial company. Thank you, friend!)
One of the hardest parts of that writing process was switching from my fiction brain to my nonfiction brain. Plus there was the research that triggered my ADD tendencies, writing to a lower reading level, explaining complex concepts in a simplified format, footnoting and formatting, glossary terms and pronunciation keys . . . Suffice to say there was a steep learning curve and a few tears of frustration.
But I put my head down to push through the doubts and nasty voices, and I prevailed. Plus, I (mostly) kept to my promise to myself and worked on my middle-grade novel revisions every day. I learned to bounce from fiction to nonfiction and back again. And it felt like a real accomplishment to hit SEND when I emailed my manuscript yesterday.
This morning Zippy and I went out for our run on the trails. As we took off, I mentioned how I wished we could take a different route out there in the open space. I love the trails and they’re kinder to my body than pavement as I pound out the miles, but lately I’ve noticed my mind wanders when I run. And my mind shouldn’t wander when there are rocks and knapweed and eroded trail segments to navigate. But it wanders because I’m comfortable with my route; I’ve run it so often I can close my eyes and visualize exactly where the rabbit brush stalk sticks out onto the trail and how far up the trail past the turn-off it is that I need to side-step a cluster of partially submerged rocks.
So today Zippy took the lead and he mixed it up. He took us on side trails and detours, but the biggest change was we ran parts of the route in reverse. Which meant I was running downhill where I’m usually straining to run uphill, and struggling up the steep inclines where I’m used to flying down the trail.
Talk about a learning curve. I thought my brain was going to explode! (Not to mention the other very real concern that I was about to barf up a lung).
Well, I eventually made it home and recovered enough to have today’s deep thought:
It’s good to step outside my comfort zone because doing so allows me to learn new skills and expand my muscles (whether brain or brawn). Becoming more flexible ain’t always pretty, but it’s necessary.