Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Dusty Minds, Blowing in the Wind

Patti talked about dusty writing – about how a novelist can’t back down from the stuff of life in order to fashion a comfortable story. She is wise, and I’m grateful to her for being so transparent with us as to let us peek over her shoulder into her WIP as she adds velocity to her novel.

Her post got me thinking. . . which isn’t much of a surprise. Novelists are contemplative people. It’s our nature and our practice. I’ve blogged before about the disruptive power of writing a novel. I’ve learned through experience that being reflective and contemplative, while immensely helpful in many ways, has a downside. Here is a recent example of how our ruminative practices can interfere with life:

Steve kicks the tire of a sandy brown mini-van. “What do you think?”

I stare at his foot. Moses comes to mind. He struck a rock twice and then wasn’t allowed into the Promised Land.

Steve clears his throat. “Lovely?” (He calls me Lovely)

I shake my head. “Disobedience is tricky, isn’t it? It isn’t a simple case of cause and effect. Do or don’t do. It’s motives, and meanings.” I pull out my note book, start scribbling down words.

Steve straightens his spine as if bracing for a gale. “Is there something you want to tell me, Bonnie?”

I point to the ground with my pen. “Your foot. Reminded me of Moses.”

Pastor Steve needs no further explanation. He switches tactics. “Would Moses buy this mini-van?”


Later, we’re driving home in our new mini-van. From the backseat, Ben hands me a paper from his backpack. “It’s about the penny drive for the school.”

I scan the note. I’m aghast. “You can’t participate in this, Ben!”

Ben and Steve speak as one. “Why not?”

“It’s unethical!” I wave the paper around like a manifesto.

Steve smiles at the traffic. “Mommy has been reading philosophy again.”

I cross my arms in front of me and adopt a schoolteacher voice. “Penny drives are exclusivist. They reward the wealthy simply because they are wealthy. And they punish the poor.”

Heather squeaks from the backseat. “I don’t want to be punished.”

Ben says, “Punished how? Like a spanking?”

Heather holds her breath.

I turn in my seat so I can face my children. “Meritocracy must be challenged at every opportunity.”

“I was wrong,” Steve says. “Mommy is reading sociology, not philosophy.”

I tap Heather’s knee. “Breathe Sweetie, no one is going to punish you.”

Her brown eyes shine. “I didn’t mean to be merry-talk-city.” She turns to Ben. “Did you?”

He shakes his head. “No way! I’m never going to be merry-talk-city.” He thinks for a moment. “Or smoke.”

Heather picks up his cause and points to the heavens. “Smoking is bad!”

Ben hollers, “Smoking must be challenged at every opportunity!”

Steve sighs. “You’re going to have them walking around slapping cigarettes out of people’s hands.”

I turn around and face forward. I stare at the paper in my hand. My voice is small and quiet. “Well, there are worse things they could do.”


That night I kiss my husband goodnight.

He says, “So you are writing about Moses?”

I stare at him as if he’d sprouted a third eye. “Why on earth would you think that? Moses?”

“You were thinking about Moses at the car dealership today. I figured. . .”

I flap my hand at him. “I’m not writing about Moses. Someone else has already done that. It was you kicking the tire that brought up Moses.”

He grins. “Must have been a macho, patriarchal sort of kick, eh?”

I think for a moment. “Are you aware how much early twentieth century Christian literature was misogynic?

Steve turns the light out. “Tell you what,” he says in the dark. “I won’t kick any more tires if you won’t keep me up half the night talking about misogyny and Moses. Deal?”

My mind whirls.


Latayne C Scott said...

Oh, Bonnie, I love you! What a perceptive and hilarious look at how the two worlds of a writer -- the thought world and the real world -- collide.

Bring your family and come to New Mexico. I'll make it all up to them. If, of course, I'm not writing a book myself. Then they'll be on their own.

Patti Hill said...

Yep, this is the novelist's life. Bonnie, it's so nice to know I'm not along. Here is a scene from my life:

Dear Hubby, "Let's get going. The farmer's market is starting."

"Is it enough of a motivation to [fill in the blank] just because of familial ties?"


"I mean, that doesn't make her much of a hero."

"Are we talking real life or novel life, here? I could use a warning."

"I shoot off a flair next time."

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

Great post, Bonnie!
Personally, I think Moses would have bought the 2-seater Miata.

Nichole Osborn said...

Great post Bonnie! :0)Slapping cigs. out of people's hands isn't bad. My "grandpa" smoked, and hit it from "grandma". My "sister" and I knew where he hid them. We would get them and break them in half or run them through the garbage disposal. Thanks for the laugh!:0)

Nikole Hahn said...

Here's another scene:

The pews are full. The pastor is preaching a great sermon. Suddenly, a word, a phrase he says turns on the hose of story ideas. Thus, I have to grab a visitor card and a pencil from the pew. I begin writing the ideas down. My husband glances at me. He knows I have just missed half of the sermon.

Samantha Bennett said...

This post was hilarious, Bonnie! My husband, Jon, could definitely relate to Steve.

Jon is a surfer while I, most definitely, am not. (Too much balance/coordination required.) Since my MC is a surfer, I interrogate Jon while shopping, driving, breathing--whenever my MC pesters me!

Anonymous said...

Bonnie, what a great post! Nikole, I am so with you! Some of my best scenes have come to me on Sunday mornings. I scrawl on whatever's at hand, usually the bulletin. Rick always knows when I've slipped into the world of fiction. Really, it's more like he knows when I happen to slip OUT the world of fiction. But what's fun is that he's never quite sure who he's talking to.

My new mantra: Misogyny must be challenged at every opportunity!!

Nikole Hahn said...

LOL, Sharon! So you've got voices in your head, too, huh? My best story ideas also come from coffee shops. My husband knows when I've slipped away from our date night into eaves dropping on an interesting conversation and using a phrase from it to write a short story. lol.

Bonnie Grove said...

Oh man....I wrote lovely responses to everyone and then the internet ate my comment!!


Shorthand version: I adore you all! You make me smile and laugh and you are brilliant.

Steve G said...

And I wouldn't change the disruptive power of noveling for anything. "Lovely" reminds us that all of life is food for thought, just as all of life is the stage for living out our faith. The story of Moses wasn't a story for him... it was life itself. The novelist's life is more like the Scribe - the recording of life with whispers of the Eternal.

So while I may have to deal with misogynist meritocratics named Moses, I urge you all on to greater deeds of ruminative disruptions.

Janet said...

I'm beginning to think I'm not eccentric enough to be a writer. And trust me, never before in my life have I questioned the insufficiency of my eccentricity.

It took you ladies.

Kathleen Popa said...

Oh, Bonnie! "Meritocracy!" I've got to remember that word for my next conversation with my true-love. I'll have him sputtering...

A single friend recently told me how she managed to get all ten fingers caught just this side of the knuckles when the upper half of a window dropped - hard! - while she had her hands on the windowsill. What could she do? She was all alone and her hands were stuck.

I was supposed to feel sympathy. And I did, but I also thought, wonder where I could use that in my story...?

Judy Gann said...

Ladies, thanks to you, I'm rethinking my decision to try my hand at fiction. Just kidding! :-)

But, I'm beginning to understand what my novelist friends mean when they tell me, "Welcome to the dark side."

Anonymous said...

Oh, yeah, Judy, we're a different breed. But what I love in interacting with other novelists is finding I'm not the only pup in the kennel.

Footprints From the Bible by Cynthia Davis said...

So true-it takes the least little word, phrase, image...and I'm off in 'this would be a great story'.

Steve-I've always said I felt like a Scribe for God when I write. Isn't it great.

Bonnie Grove said...

Janet! Don't doubt! I'm not like this because I'm a novelist - I was just, yeah, that's the word. HA! We all have our own special way of walking.

Judy: It's like that old saying, "Come to the dark side, we have cookies!" Bwahahaha!

Katy: Please let us all know how that conversation with your other half goes. I'd love to hear it.

Cynthia: It's amazing how the creative mind works. I love how creativity can be found in each person - all expressed differently. It is the most genuine reflection of God's character we have retained from original creation, I think. So great to see you here!

Alexandra said...

Haha! I love it. Mine's a little, something happens or I read a chance sentence in the know..."this night thy soul shall be required of thee". In the novels every chance sentence is suppose to mean something, foreshadow something. Gasp. Oh, no.