June 21, 2009

WRITING ADVICE: LIN OLIVER: Enjoy Your Creative Life While On the Road

I’ve heard writers say that time “on the road” is wasted time as far as writing goes. But not Lin Oliver!

Now, I may not have taken this the way Lin Oliver intended it – I can imagine that she might mean that because you’ve written books and were invited to speak or teach somewhere, you should enjoy yourself. I agree, 100%.

I suppose she might mean that I should spend the time revising or writing new chapters without the interruption of the phone and WITH the addition of room service. I agree 100% there, too!

But when I read this, I have taken it to mean that I am free to use my imagination while on the road. I can use new experiences and the sensory input of a new place in ways that my usual digs would never provide. For example, while teaching at a Young Author’s conference near St. Cloud, MN, I discovered that the city maintained a flower garden on the Mississippi. To tell you the truth, I went there not expecting it to be a “big deal”.

I was quite wrong! The Munsinger and Clemens Gardens along the river are stunning! With “color gardens” (where the flower blooms are all nearly the same color), a Formal Garden, the Rose Garden and many others, the place is both beautiful – and has an historic angle as well. A fair portion was constructed during the 30’s as part of the Works Progress Administration of the Great Depression…

I know these Gardens will make their way into my writing some time, if not soon, then when the situation presents itself in a story or book, I’ll use the Gardens or ones like them, as a setting.

It doesn’t stop there, either. As I write for young people and I teach young people at the conferences, I find that characters form out of the kids I see. For example, I was eating my lunch alone in the courtyard of a university in southwestern Minnesota, when a young man strolled in from the building. I looked up, noting his presence and went back to reading and eating my lunch. Shortly, this gangly youth made his way to the concrete bench I was using as a table and commented on the weather. After chatting amiably for several minutes, he sat on the bench, tucking his long legs into a semi-lotus position. We talked about reading, writing and life for the next forty minutes.

He will make it into one of my stories someday.

The “creative life” I enjoy while on the road embraces new characters and places I’d have had no opportunity to meet otherwise. This past spring, I gained the image of a fascinating young man; three years ago, a unique setting was impressed in my mind.

Who knows what will come out of the mixing of the two? In fact, as I read this, something is stirring...something involving a young, unemployed man who no longer wishes to be "on the dole" during the Great Depression and who has a creative genius hidden beneath the grubbly shirt and pants of a field worker...

I can’t wait to find out the story!


JBE said...

Keep up the good work glad to see more than trash.

Anonymous said...

I also agree 100%
One of your better Writing Advice in the past year. (Not that they weren't all fabulous.)