On Monday Bonnie described how she knows an idea is book worthy. And on Wednesday, Debbie helped us see that breaking the rules can sometimes work to our advantage. And they got me thinking…about my mother.
Let me explain.
July 2010: my children sat on our dining room table watching my mother sort scrap metal. Mostly cut up cookie tins, random pieces of wire, nuts and bolts, that sort of thing. I was in the living room, timing how long before they got bored and wandered off in search of mayhem. (My children typically have the attention span of gnats) Three hours later they were still helping their grandmother arrange bits and pieces of discarded “junk” on a painted wooden structure. They asked questions:
“Tootsie,” (her choice of grandma name) my oldest said, holding up the innards to what I suspect was once a blender. “What about this thing-a-mah-jiggy?”
And she’d take it. Set it against the emerging picture. Stand back. Pull at her earlobe. “Maybe. But don’t you think it would frighten someone if we used that for her eyeball?”
“I think it would be fun.”
“Right you are.” As a mother of six, she has learned not to second-guess the creative instincts of children.
Back and forth like this for hours, until a woman’s face emerged from the flotsam and jetsam of discarded objects. Once satisfied with the results, she nailed the pieces in place and christened it with a name. (“Wink” in case you’re wondering)
Viola! Art on my dining room table.
I took mental pictures the entire time. My boys with their grandmother. Learning. Being creative. Playing with dangerous metal-cutting tools. Fun times.
Fast forward to October 2010: I’m working on a new novel and I’m struggling to put the pieces together. It feels like a disjointed heap of mental junk. There might be a picture in there, somewhere, but I can’t find it. So I call my mother.
“I don’t know what I’m doing.”
She laughs. “You must be on the right track. I almost never know what I’m doing. I just know what I like.”
“But how did you know you were supposed to do this. Of all the art you could have made, why tin collage?”
“I found my gimmick.”
“People stop and look at my work because I have deviated from the expected boundaries. A Jazz Quartet made from clipped metal. A man proposes through the medium of cookie tins. Essentially, the same story told in a different way.”
Even though my mother didn’t give concrete advice on the specifics of my novel, she gifted me with something far more important: she helped me understand my gimmick. Some refer to it as a brand, but in reality the semantics don’t matter. We’re all trying to tell the same stories in a fresh way. And, thanks to her, I understand my method a little better.
What about you? Are your stories oil on canvas? Stained glass? Perhaps paper mache meets steam punk? Do tell!