Monday, December 01, 2008

How writing a book is like riding a horse is like painting a room...

Happy December 1st everybody; it's cold, white sky and wind in my neck of the woods, and I'm back in bed for a couple hours, having kicked everybody out for the day and gotten done what had to be done.  I've got a dog and cat tucked in beside me.  Both snoring.  Monday is my catch-up day but before I start scrubbing floors and making shopping lists, I have this idea echoing around in my head.

I have made career goals for both of my passions: writing fiction and riding horses.  I'm working on landing an agent to represent my novel, while getting my certification as a riding instructor.  This is what I've been doing with my time instead of working at a part time job.  I need the income, and I'm not getting it, but instead pinching my wallet tight and planning on these goals paying off in the future.  I am motivated to get good at what I do.  

I believe the two can be very complimentary.  The physical activity and hard work at the barn balances out those hours of sitting on my butt with only my hands moving over the keyboard, or my neck swiveling to look out the window while I run a scene through my head.  I can be grooming a horse and listening to characters speak, or typing a description while imagining the warm smell of horse.  I love that balance.

For the last few months I've been thinking about a third path: painting.  Not like, beret-wearing, palette flinging kind of painting, although I've done that too!  I just recently finished a big paint project at the studio, as well as painting both of my kids' bedrooms in August.  I remembered that I am really darn good at it.  A few years ago I was offered a job as a painter.  I turned it down.  At that point I didn't want to be away from the kids that much... and also, I was kind of mental back then.  I was too fragile to take on a job.  I'd consider it now, except that it would take away from those goals I'm determined to meet.  I know how thin I can stretch and when to slacken it up.

But, while sitting on the floor watching the brush in my right hand lay down a perfectly straight line on the control room baseboard, my brain tumbled around all these amazing parallels and connections.

All three of these activities - riding, writing, painting - require a willingness to let go of whatever is troubling your mind.  Focus is not something that comes easily to me, and I need to consciously shed the noise.  Look up, through the horse's ears at the track ahead, forget about anything on the other side of the fence, send my thoughts down to my legs and belly while thinking ahead to what I'll need to ask of the horse.  Look in, look for the people who only exist in my head, forget about the publishing industry and the laundry and the dust bunnies, listen for the voices and sense the inner world.  Look straight ahead, inches away, to the thick colour in the bristles, forget about the saws and nail guns on the other side of the wall, let my eyes soak up the new line of glistening paint covering the old.  

Then push my leg against the horse's side and keep him moving, let my fingers fly and the keys click, the roller running over the wall and make everything new.

Things get rolling, running, flowing, moving, whichever way you look at it: progress, reward.

While I wait for something to happen with my current book, I slowly work on my new one.  She's been in my head for over a year now, and I've been letting her form and develop.  

She's a horsewoman.  She has a collection of horses nobody wanted, and students nobody understood.  She can't resist a sad story and often wishes she could turn her back.  She dyes her hair different colours and has a sparkly stud in the corner of her nostril, and tattoos on her shoulders and the back of her neck.  

She was a painter in a different life from the one she lives now.  She knows that feeling, that locked-in feeling, when everything moves like the world is in a trance, and soon things look different.  She knows that it wasn't the life for her and she had to move on.

She's about to fall in love with somebody who, logically, is absolutely the worst guy for her, but emotionally, perfect, and this dichotomy feels like it could rip apart her fragile sanity.

And here's me.  All the mental images are converging.  

Gotta go...


hayseed said...

I'd read it. And yes, thank goodness for the things that let us live in the moment.

pseudosu said...

You're amazing-- GREAT post.

You need to read "Folly" by Laurie R King if you haven't.

Rae is from our tribe too... and this book is on your current wave-length.
You'll see what I mean.

Heidi said...

so your new character is a horsewoman, but can she paint???

I love the parallels you draw here. You're right about the focus and the need to leave all the noise behind. Maybe that's why you are drawn to these things: they balance out the loudness that crowds your head.

JKB said...

I'm very excited about this book, Heidi, But I've told you that before.

I can't wait til you get me enough to read. :)

Laura Crum said...

I'm having lunch with Laurie R King tomorrow--she'll be tickled to hear that I stumbled on a reader "review" of Folly. Folly was one of Laurie's favorite books, and I felt it never got the attention it deserved.

Heidi, I wish you much luck with your writing and riding (I have no knowledge when it comes to painting). But I, too, spent years in search of an agent and countless more years training horses. I know how well writing and riding go together. And, for me, perseverance paid off. My first novel was published in 1994 and there have been nine more since. I'm struggling to finish number eleven now. And you know the funny thing, it doesn't really get easier. You just have different problems. In some ways, I'd like to be in your place; my enthusiasm for writing was much greater in the years before I was published (this lasted through the first five books). Now its more of a job. But still, a fun job. Good luck.

Kerri said...

That's the beauty of writing. You can be all the things you've dreamed of, explore the possibilities and pitfalls.

Heidi the Hick said...

Kerri- you're right.

Laura- so good to see you here!In a strange way I'm glad to hear established writers talking about the difficulties that persist after getting published the first time. I need that reminder.

jkb- it's so very far from ready, but give us time!

Heidi, yes, parallels. (and my new character paints something in her house whenever the noise in her head gets too loud!)

Pseudosu- that book is now on my list!

Hayseed, I am thankful for living in the moment. At least when I stop long enough to realize it!