Back in November, I read a blog post on Nancy Kress’s blog about rewriting. She listed her steps in doing a requested rewrite to a short story, and I laughed aloud at her Step Three: walk the dog and ponder the story and the issue.
I laughed because so often, that’s what I’m doing as I walk my dog. When I’m alone, just my dog and me, I think on whatever story isn’t coming, or maybe on one that’s still percolating, still trying to find form, to take shape in my mind. Or, like Ms. Kress, I think about what I’ve done wrong, and how to fix it.
I laughed then, and now I can’t get that idea out of my mind. I’ve been wrangling some ideas lately, or being wrangled by them, more like it, and wondering what’s changed. Well, I can tell you: I’ve been walking with other people most of the time. Not that this is a bad thing. Far from it! I love the company of my dog-walking companions, as my dog loves the company of their dogs. But my mind longs for that time when it wanders freely while my body is engaged in mindless, safe activity. Exercise and Creativity, the ultimate pairing.
The ravine where we walk is beautiful. I find a mental ease in the ever-changing familiarity, in the seasonal show. Mother Nature surrounds me with water, earth, plant, air and stone. (No fire, fortunately.) My writing tends toward the earthy, so this is ideal for me. “Write what you know” is the oft-heard commandment. I know this bit of the stone, this bend of the creek, this stump trying to trip me once more. Nature seems to come out in my writing, regardless of where I place the stories, so I’m not fighting it. It’s becoming part of my ‘voice.’
Reflecting on this brought back yet another author’s comments. Two years ago, when World Fantasy Con was in Columbus, I was thrilled to sit in the front row during a panel containing L.E. Modesitt, Jr. As we waited for the final panelists to arrive and attendees to filter in from the halls, those already seated chatted a wee bit. OK, so I was terribly nervous, and probably I looked like a ninny sitting there (it was my first writing con ever). But Mr. Modesitt was kind and wonderful, and spoke a bit about walking his dogs in the snow, and how the exercise was good for his body and his mind. I felt an immediate connection, dog-walker that I am, and a few forgettable moments passed for Mr. Modesitt. But that little seed was planted. Now, it’s germinating (Yes, in December! Must be a frost-plant.) into the curious thoughts here, on creativity and walking the dog.
So you’ll probably be seeing me walking with my dog in the woods alone once in awhile. Don’t be afraid to say hello. And don’t be scared by the spaced-out look on my face. It’s just my mind wandering, re-connecting with my creative spark, trying to figure out the next plot point. And wondering ‘What do cat owners do?’