Friday, September 12, 2008

Think Day Works

A red-tail hawk circles high above a wild meadow.

I took another think day yesterday and it took. I went for long meandering drive out west of town to enjoy a warm late summer day and see the early changes in the colors.
I went down some roads I hadn’t been down in years and stopped along the North Saskatchewan River a few times. Running water is good for the thinking process.
I realized on a much deeper level the problem I had with writing my memoirs was structural. It’s a story and like any story it needs a beginning, a middle, and an end.
This was my problem. It has no end. I had absolutely no clue how to close off that particular story.
I thought it over as I ate my lunch. I was standing near a spruce forest along the banks of the North Saskatchewan River. The sky was a clear, magnificent blue. Sunlight danced off the gently rushing water. Two empty vehicles were nearby, but I was gloriously, magnificently alone.
The sun’s warmth was calming and soothing and I breathed deeply of the fresh air.
I don’t have a middle either.
This was my second problem.
Structure it like a novel, I told myself. Well, sure. But I don’t write novels.
You studied how in English class. Sometime between Grades Eight and Eleven.
And that’s where the hawk came in. On my way down from the highway to the river I’d seen a hawk circling intently. As I drove closer it widened its circle but still seemed quite intent on finding something on the ground.
It was up high so it could get a good look over a wide area. It was taking an overview of the situation.
The hawk is my totem bird. I’m sure someone was trying to get across to me that I need to step back, be objective, and take an overview of my story.
I’d never set down what goes in Act One, or Two, or Three. I know the story. At least I think I do.
Last night I set down a few scribbled notes for Act One and the characters. I'd never set anyone down as protagonist or antagonist or supporting characters or anything like that.
I know have a notion where Act One ends and what should happen in Act Two.
I finally have a reasonable notion as to where Act Three ought to end.
I had a lovely think day yesterday and a productive one as well.
Now to put all that thought to good use.


MizFit said...

I cant help but read your writing and think that you are living the life I wish I lived (I know that sounds odd and oddLY pathetic but I cant come up with better phrasing. SEE?! I NEED TO BE YOU)

having a totem bird.

where you are living.

the inner peace and calm which radiates from your posts *consistently*

all of that.

Im working on it.
seeking the elusive balance.

Hilary said...

I'm learning a far bit about totems lately - thanks to Frank. I'm still trying to determine if I have one of my own.. or rather what it is. But I have little doubt that your writing path widened with the appearance of your hawk. I'm glad for you. :)

Leah J. Utas said...

Mizfit, what wonderful things say.
Work on the calm and the balance and it'll come. Perhaps you need to focus in on exactly what you need to be calm about?
As for your totem bird all you need to do is go on a Shamanic Journey. Find a practitioner you trust and take some me time.
I really appreciate your comments, Mizfit. I'm so grateful that you've chosen to delurk.

Hilary, yes that's about what happened. I'm glad Frank is guiding you.

the Bag Lady said...

dfLeah - this was a great post. I'm glad things are coming together for you after your "think" day!
I need to discover my own totem....with my luck, it's a freakin' kookoo bird.

(how DOES one spell that, anyway? coocoo, kookoo, cookoo....nothing looks right this morning ~~sigh~~)

Leah J. Utas said...

df Bag Lady, thanks. The Think Day really helped. I'm sure your totem's not a Cuckoo.

Anonymous said...

Good post. I like that you are finding your way with the help of your totem bird. Mine is the Owl I think.


Missicat said...

Thanks for sharing this...sometimes inspiration can take unusual forms! And I could probably just stare at the sky all beautiful!

Leah J. Utas said...

Thanks, Reb. Hawk has been very helpful. Cool to have an owl.

Missicat, inspiration comes in some unusual ways. The sky was magnificent yesterday. Glad you enjoyed it.

tokaiangel said...

I love the way you used nature as a guide, that's amazing! I wish I could do that. Sometimes I know when something's not working with story, but it's very much a gut instinct and not something I can easily articulate. There is a mystery to the creative process, I think, in the same way there is a mystery to nature, so it makes sense to look to one to help explain the other.

My old boss (a genius in my eyes!) always used to tell me that you can lift a story by making sure your protagonist has been significantly changed by his journey at the end. It always helps me to think about in what way the experiences have changed him, and to try and enhance those themes as much as possible throughout. It gives more of a feeling of an "ending" if you're finding it elusive.

Good luck with it!

TA x

Leah J. Utas said...

TA - Thanks for your thoughts and advice. You're right about setting down the growth and changes. Nailing down the changes is giving me trouble.

Thomma Lyn said...

That's excellent, Leah! :) Hawks fascinate me, too. And as I was rough drafting my novel, I had to be reminded repeatedly to not focus on blades of grass but to check out the high view, too -- the mountains, the clearings, the tops of the trees and the sky and the clouds. I can get bogged down in details if I'm not careful! And the hawk reminds us not to do that.

Leah J. Utas said...

TL - Yes. That's it. The hawk is our reminder to look at it in it's entirety, not just the details.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

df Leah,

Wonderful, just wonderful. I am so pleased that your think day worked so well.


Leah J. Utas said...

dfTerrie - Thanks so much. It was one of my better ones.

Crabby McSlacker said...

Very inspiring--so glad your "think" day was so successful!

Leah J. Utas said...

Hello Crabby, thanks very much.