I start the day by applying what I’ve learned–or had reinforced–at Whispering Pines: an extraordinary writing retreat held annually in Rhode Island, and sponsored by the NE SCBWI. (I promise to blog about the conference specifics by the end of the week, and to thank everyone who deserves undying appreciation. There is much to tell and share!)
For most of the morning, I practice The Art of Killing Your Darlings, otherwise known as forcing yourself to rid the manuscript of those scenes and characters you love most, but which add nothing to your story. Sometimes, not so easy to accomplish. To prepare myself mentally for this ordeal, I first remove any and all feelings of guilt. I shove the guilt out the window to a place also reserved for Those Darlings No Longer To Be If I Am Ever To Sell This Manuscript. (I do hope My Darlings are not listening. If they are, I love you!)
Next, in preparation for the kill, I take baby steps. Instead of my writing, I apply The Art Of Killing Your Darlings to my photograpy while I sort through the photos taken over the weekend. As always, I captured hundreds of pictures, all of which I was compelled to take. Like the characters who appear out of nowhere, whisper in my ear, and then pull me like a magnet into their worlds, I followed, in this case, the whispers of the pines.
The process of Dealing with Those Beloved Darlings or Babies goes more quickly than usual, which is surprising. I scan each picture on my computer, and if it doesn’t quickly grab me, like a well-crafted first page, I hit the delete button. When I am prompted to ponder my rash decision with the words, “Are you sure you want to delete?” I hit the button with full confidence. Not a hint of hesitation. My inner voice has spoken. I trust it.
While studying what is left of the two-hundred plus pictures I originally took, I discover the reason behind them. Cynthia Lord, my mentor for the weekend, shared with us her process of writing Touch Blue. (If you haven’t read this novel, do so. Touch Blue is wonderful!) Cindy likes to visit a place, so she can notice the tiny details first-hand. Details such as bits and pieces of mussel shells left by seagulls, dropped from high above, in hopes they will break. The mussels eaten, tires drive over what is left of the shells, crushing them. What remains is beautiful. Shimmering shades of blue dance in the sunlight like bits of broken glass.
During the block of time set aside for writing or critique groups, I found myself walking instead. And that was okay, because it felt right. Right for me. Still trying to wind down from a recent, stressful trip to NC, I needed to decompress.
At first, I walked with hesitation down the windy road, heading away from the conference. Should I be writing? Should I be revising? In truth, I was in my mind. Thoughts of my manuscript swirled in unison with the swish, swish, swish of the pine trees swaying in the breeze. For me, the healing process had begun.
Now when I choose which images to share on this blog, I understand what I was doing. I was listening to Cindy. I was searching for those details that only a visitor can discover on their own. In a place where pines whisper to you, surrounding you with beauty and grace and inspiration.
These are the images I share with you today:
Water resembling melting chocolate (if it were not so blue), the swirls enticing onlookers to purchase a fresh pound of fudge, their taste buds on high alert.
Water so blue that it becomes a work of marbled art. Art I want to touch. This picture will go on my wall to remind me, always, what Cindy told me.
A hawk high above the trees, flying free, its wings spread open, its movement effortless. Oh, how I envy that.
A rushing stream I discovered on the drive out, which compelled me to pull to the side of the road, so I could capture the image. Freeze it in time, forever. Seeing it now, it invokes the happiest of memories: witnessing a Vermont glass blower, blowing bubbles with my granddaughter, experiencing Yellowstone National Park with my family.
In being shown the way out, I discovered the way in. To the place where my characters have patiently waited for me. Knowing I am ready, they now lead me back to my heart, my words, so that I may surrender, once again, to the singing of my soul.
No other gift could be greater than that.