Begin Again

I am in a stuck place lately. The bottom of the well. Fortunately, there’s a lot of stuff down here with me. Perhaps I can fashion a rope and pull myself up.

I sift through clippings, cards and photos saved over the years and feel around for the stories that I saw in them.

Examples from the idea file.

I look at the photo of my family that I keep above my computer. Any more stories there?

The McGee Family, c. 1957.

I think about the letterforms themselves: A,B,C… The tall strokes, the curves. Letterforms are reason enough to write. Kind of amazing how a whole language emerges from just 26 letters.

My own font, Doozy, invented for ‘Zelda and Ivy.’

I think about words, too. Do any of you make wordlists? Like these reduplicates: Abracadabra, Artsy fartsy, Aye aye, Beep beep, Beriberi, Bingle bangle, Blah blah, Bon bon, Boo hoo, Bye bye, Can can, Chitchat (chitter-chatter), Chop chop, Clickety clack, Dilly dally, Ding dong, Dum dum, Doo doo, Fiddle faddle , Flim flam, Flip flop, etc. I know they belong in a story. Maybe an ABC book?

Outside, night has come and a storm gathers. The wind whips the pines against the house. My little dog sleeps beside me. But stories are waking. It’s cozy here in the well.

12 responses to “Begin Again

  1. Laura – Usually when I’m at the bottom of the well I thrash around a lot and I can’t find an idea file down there with me. I like the idea of making it cozy and sort of seasonal.

  2. sounds like a place where magic will happen.

  3. I have never thought about keeping a file for future ideas. Thank you for giving me YOUR idea. Even in the well, you are helping others! ;-D My dad had a saying: “Even a blind chicken finds a kernel of corn now and then.”
    This gives me comfort in times like these…

  4. Laura, I keep a file folder with ideas jotted down on Post-It’s and other scraps of paper, but I hadn’t thought to keep a more visual collection, like yours. I keep those lightning bolts of genius 😉 that come to me and other odd word-related things, like the time I overheard one boy on the beach saying to slightly younger boy, “Never step in the black stuff. Always avoid the black stuff.” I thought this could be a metaphor for life. Or my local newspaper’s headline: Power Outage Caused by Raven Hitting Underground Cable. Hmm. That must be one powerful raven! When we collect these snippets from life, we’re never alone in the well, for sure!

  5. Great to see others who collect those snippets from life, thinking one might be just the ‘next’ idea. I liked seeing some of your collection at the bottom of the well. Maybe if you wonder around a while, some one thing will stick!

  6. All these scraps of ideas, photos, saved images or clippings are a true wellspring. All we need is the time to let them percolate. This is the hope that perhaps these shall develop into something with a life of their own! Thanks for sharing part of your process, Laura.

  7. I love that photo of you with your family, Laura, and I think of how many of your stories have been inspired by connections you have now, and have had, with others in your life. Aren’t all stories about parts of us, after all? Including our struggles and our times at the bottom of the well. There’s daylight at the top, remember, and even at night, some starlight, too.

  8. Aye, aye: Bye bye to blah BLAHS! Thanks for a fun post!

  9. What a nice post, Laura… I love the metaphor of the well, and the rescuing rope. It is so perfectly evocative of that “stuck” feeling, softened by hope and optimism… and your own encouraging voice from the past in the form of your collections.

  10. Actually, when I get stuck, word lists work very well for me, because I feel like I end up with something. I’ve done word lists on colors (at least twelve shades of yellow, not to mention all the other colors, and shades of brown, and the metals.) I’ve done lists of textures, words related to sight, movement, etc. And I put them in a special folder called “grab bag” in my word docs.

    I like the metaphor of the well, too.

  11. Turns out I have more than my studio resources down in the well: the lift and camaraderie of fellow writers and illustrators and people who love books. Thanks to all those who chimed in.

  12. This well is a place of deep magic. The “old story ” of a clipping or found object is just waiting for the “right moment”. Chances are that you will find connections and a thread to stitch up something new with the warmth of marvelous past. Maybe the ideas will mix and morph. The scraps are surely reminders of something you love.

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