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Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost. Some Are Just Looking for Their Glasses.

Sitting down to write a book isn’t as easy as, well, sitting down to write a book.

The process of getting two writers to sit down and write at the same time can be arduous. First of all, as most married folks know, getting a husband and wife to agree on what they want to do at any given moment is a feat all by itself. He suggests doing some writing before dinner. She points out that although she is a multi-tasker extraodinaire, cooking and writing simultaneously always results in a burned dinner. She suggests writing after dinner. He has a meeting, which is why he suggested writing before dinner. So they sit down to write and the dinner burns.

As any writer knows, writing is a daily activity. If writers waited for the perfect mood, they’d never write anything. Finding that idyllic place, the yeah-this-stuff-is-rolling-out-of-my-brain-just-as-fast-as-I-can-type moment, is rare. Having two people hit that high at the same time is even rarer. It’s much more common for one to be ready to write and the other not interested at all. Sort of a “not tonight, I have a headache” type of thing. This is where scheduling writing time comes in handy. It’s like making a date. You look forward to it, you prepare for it and (hopefully) you score.

And let us not forget our writing tools. Is it a plotting session? Then lined yellow pads and pencils are needed. Editing? Red pens are a must! Plus a lot of tea. And maybe something stronger if editing gets really brutal. Actual writing? Here we differ. Mary writes on a computer, Joe, the old fashioned way, long-hand on a legal pad. That makes combining scenes LOADS of fun. Deciphering Joe’s handwriting is not for the faint of heart. Not to mention having to print a half written scene from the computer, adding long-hand notations, and then transcribing the whole thing into a workable (and readable) draft. Yikes!

A place to write is important, too, and also depends on what we happen to be doing. We edit at the kitchen table because editing needs a lot of room, not only for spreading out various drafts and scenes but for ducking if someone throws something. Plotting needs atmosphere. The gazebo in summer, by the fireplace in winter. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? It can be and plotting a storyline can be a lot of fun. (When you’re not banging your head on a table because you can’t figure out just how the heck you’re going to get out of the corner you’ve written yourself into, this is.) And the actual writing? We need separate spaces for this part of the job. In fact, this is so important we have another blog coming devoted just to this topic!

Finally, and most importantly, we both wear reading glasses. This is a problem, because, as anyone who wears reading glasses knows, there is a special law of physics that states that reading glasses are never left in the same spot twice. The joke in our house is that we need glasses to find our glasses. Writing sessions are often delayed as one or the other hunts for our glasses. No glasses, no writing. So we wander from room to room, wondering where we left them, wondering if someone else could have moved them, wondering if we have gnomes who come out at night and hide our glasses. And that brings us to the moral of our story. Not all those who wander are lost. Some are just looking for their glasses.

(J.R.R. Tolkien’s birthday is January 3rd. His book, The Fellowship of the Ring, is the source of the “not all those who wander are lost” quote. The full quote goes: “All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost; the old that is strong does not wither, deep roots are not reached by the frost. From the ashes a fire shall be woken, a light from the shadows shall spring; renewed shall be the blade that was broken, the crownless again shall be king.”)

Tolkien, apparently, never had any trouble finding his glasses.

How to Write a Book during a Blizzard

Ah, a blizzard! The perfect excuse to stay home and write. There will be hours of uninterrupted time. Time to start a book! Finish a book! Plot another book! Here’s how to go about it.

Step one: Wake up and discover that the storm predicted to go out to sea the night before is barreling toward your location at the speed of Concorde jet. Wake up husband and then madly dash to the kitchen to make sure you have enough food. Sigh in relief when you discover you do. Before complete relaxation can take hold, realize that you have no cat food and the cat is already staring at you as if you were a hamburger and she knows where the ketchup bottle is. Husband lies in bed wondering why he is awake so early on his day off.

Step two: Ignore grumbling husband, get dressed and cleverly drive to small, local market to avoid the panic at the grocery store. Discover that the store does not open until 10:00 because it is Sunday and the day after Christmas. Start swearing and drive to the larger store. Circle the parking lot like a shark as you search for a parking place. As someone pulls out, step on the gas and pull into a space ahead of two other cars trying to do the same thing. Pretend you don’t see them saluting you.

Step three: Head to the deli because your ultra-fussy cat won’t eat regular cat food. Grab a number. Forty-one. Look up at the “Now Serving” number. Two. Swear. (Don’t worry about the people standing near you. They will be swearing, too.) Wait for forty-five minutes to get a half-pound of sliced chicken breast and a half-pound of sliced turkey. Go stand in three mile-long check-out line. Fume. Pay. Walk through parking lot with three cars following you in hopes of snagging your spot. Narrowly escape with your fenders intact. Ignore the sound of the crash as you drive away.

Step four: Return home to find your now awake husband outside frantically taking down Christmas decorations so they will not be destroyed in the storm. Regret having awakened him and then stomp inside and trip over the cat. Feed the furry little demon and stomp back outside to help. Return inside one hour later with frost-bitten fingers. Upon observing your frozen-in-more-ways-than-one expression, husband wonders why he is awake so early on his day off. Stare at the tangle of lights littering your kitchen floor and puzzle about where you are going to store them since they never fit back inside their boxes. Get trash bag, shove all decorations inside, toss into a corner of the basement and decide to worry about it next Christmas.

Step five: After thawing frozen fingers, go in search of your husband (and writing partner). Look in his office. Bedroom. Bathroom. Garage. Where the bleep is that man? Find him in the basement. He explains that since it is snowing it will be a great day to clean out the basement. Explain that you thought it would be a good day to write. He explains that he is already involved in the project. You explain that you really, really want to work on the book. He looks dubiously at the piles of magazines and boxes surrounding him. You refrain from asking why he didn’t clean the basement all the other times you asked and has to do it NOW. He wonders why you aren’t excited about him doing something you have been after him to do and once again asks himself what he is doing awake so early on his day off.

Step six: Be more convincing. Suggest lighting a fire and making tea. Mention Christmas cookies. Finally say, “I. Want. To. Work. On. The. Book.” Husband finally understands that you want to work on the book rather than clean out the basement. Both stomp back upstairs.

Step seven: Channeling the anger, irritability and general grumpiness of both parties you plot a killer battle scene for your new book. And a great argument chapter for the hero and heroine. Work up a nice episode of evilness for the villain. A planet explodes. Someone threatens the galaxy and then the universe. Then spend the remainder of the time arguing about irrational character motivations and illogical thought processes because no one in real life would ever act THAT WAY.

Step eight: Realize it is probably going to snow for another 24 hours. Decide the cat has the right idea and a nap in front of the fire is a really good idea. Ignore husband’s that’s-all-I-wanted-to-do-today-anyway look.

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