30 June 2020

Plantser on the Spectrum

I don't typically write by plotting through every detail, adhering to a strict outline. Yet, I don't write quite by the seat of my pants, having no idea where each next word might lead.
So I suppose, for any given piece of prose or poetry, I fall somewhere in the middle between a "Plotter" and a "Pantser."

I mull over ideas for a while before I ever decide to pursue them on the page. Therefore, I generally have a fair idea of what I seek to write. I begin at the beginning, and, all the way through, I possess a  sense of the end. While I do not outline every plot point nor every characteristic of every character, I maintain firm notions of what shall happen and how characters ought to behave. And although I pretty well know where the story is going, I definitely enjoy feeling the flow of the words and discovering which ways they might direct the piece.

That's basically how always I've written. But a piece I just recently finished sprang a fantastic surprise on me, reawakening a personal sense of wonder to writing.

I was approaching the end of the first draft. It was a piece I had kicked around for a while before beginning. Plus, I worked on it only seasonally, just a few weeks every spring. So, all told, I had been working on this short story over a span of about of ten years. Plenty of chance to figure it all out, right?
I knew what I wanted to happen. I knew how the main character would react. But, having a general, if not a vague, idea the whole way for the finish, it was not until the final paragraph, not until the very last sentences, that I knew precisely how the story would end.
And as my concluding thoughts took shape--indeed, as they took hold--and as the ink flowed for those final few words, I remembered why I write in the first place. The pure marvel of inspiration. The sheer delight in illumination. The fantastic joy of finding the perfect word. The boundless wonder of expressing an idea and of sharing it with others.

Every piece of writing possesses those moments, to some degree. But this was the first story I had ever written where I did not know the true ending until the very moment I wrote it. 

I've had instances in writing where the words write themselves. It's absolutely terrific when that happens. But it was an altogether singular experience to be writing for so long toward an ultimate objective, lost between guiding the words and letting the words guide me, and then to have the entire spectrum of control and surrender--of plotting and pantsing--converge into a singular revelation connecting illumination and inspiration.

 Really does help remind me why I love writing.

Spectrum Tunnel
Spectrum Tunnel - Piotr Siedlecki - CC0 Public Domain

For thorough analyses of what "Plotter" versus "Pantser" is all about, visit these links:




31 May 2020

Today's Verse

I haven't written a whole lot in the last few months. Teaching online has taken most of my attention. (I'm busier all day at my computer than when I was in the school building--or so it seems, at least.) 

But no matter whatsoever else is happening in my life--even administering school library services online to 350 students and families during a pandemic--I compose a poem every year just for today, May 31st.

I wish my wonderful wife a Happy Anniversary.

May each year's verse continue onwards and ever truer.

Picture of a picture from twelve years ago.

28 April 2020

Pizza Night

Like much of the rest of the world, we're all staying close to home. And like so many others, we're doing our best to keep on keepin' on.

Tonight, we're all about "homemade pizza."

With a boost from Jiffy Pizza Crust Mix, a few sprigs of fresh spinach straight out of the garden, a thorough scouring through the icebox for cheeses and meats, everyone made their very own pizza pie!

 Thumbs up and gulps down!

Anyhow, after a couple of scares early on, we're doing all right now--healthy and humble, hoping folks are able to make the best of their circumstances and wishing everyone well!

25 March 2020

No Day

A month ago, I was wondering whether a teacher would or would not wish for a snow day.

I know of no teacher who would rather not be at work right now.

Least of all my wife, sick in bed.

03 February 2020

Snow Day

Working at a school, I find that a snow day brings out two kinds of colleagues: those who cheer for a day off, with no thought of when they'll have to make it up - OR - those who see no joy in being buried in a blizzard and are already griping about having to work an extra day tagged onto the end of the year with beautiful summer on its way.

So I suppose, at the depth of it all, a Snow Day seems to shine a light on a person's philosophies on life:
live for the present or live for the future.

Which might you live by? 


29 January 2020

One After Another

I have a handful of pieces fanned out on my writing desk--just a couple of poems and short stories. But each one has me sliding into my chair every evening, excited to keep exploring where the words will take me. I expect to be working on most of them through the rest of the season.

However, I also have stack of stories and poems, a full inch worth of paper thick, sitting on my computer desk, all ready to be typed into final drafts. That is the stack that has me hurrying to my writing room. I stand on the verge of a productivity burst, the likes of which I have not enjoyed in ages. All I have to do is keep knocking each piece out, verse by verse.

I almost hate to keep fending off the urge to start a new novel.

31 December 2019

Holiday Theatre

Quite the busy Holiday Season. Now that Christmas Day is past (and the new air hockey table that Santa brought is assembled and positioned), I finally have a moment or two to share a few thoughts on a couple shows I was able to attend this year.

Stage III Community Theatre presented A Christmas Carol, adapted by Gayann Truelove and Tammy Barton, and directed by Heather Rankin. I read the book every year. I'm sure to catch many of the movies every December, especially Scrooge starring the late, great Albert Finney. I've also seen a few local stage productions of the story. The most impressive aspect of this version is how it begins: with Ebenezer Scrooge walking the city streets, wishing folks a Merry Christmas, and then inviting the audience to learn of how he used to keep Christmas and what brought him to such miraculous change of spirit.
In the novel, the main character's introduction as a morose miser remains so powerful that the name "Scrooge" evokes for most folks thoughts of stinginess, greed, and grumpiness--and little else. But ever since I was a young reader first discovering Dickens's work, I came to think of Scrooge as the fictional embodiment of transformation and redemption. It was, therefore, compelling to see that characterization instead serve as the introduction to CD's ghostly little tale.
Also, a ring of carolers wassailed the audience between scenes--A beautiful, melodious method of helping the cast and crew do such a fine job with accomplishing scene transitions.
Lastly, the stand out of the evening was Jeremy Patey as Ebenezer Scrooge. He did a wonderful turn with the honourable role.

We also took the family to see "A Charlie Brown Christmas - Live on Stage". This one had me excited--but also a bit frightened beforehand. I have loved this cartoon since I was a wee lad, watching it every December with my family. (We still call each other to make sure everyone knows when it's scheduled to be broadcast--and it still makes us all hungry for snack cakes.) Anyway, I did not want to sit and watch a bunch of humans ruin the cartoon. What if they "killed it!"?
They didn't kill it. They brought it to life! The cast honoured the original, doing justice to nearly every word of every line in the cartoon. The singing, the dancing, the jazz trio--each member of the cast and crew did a splendid job. Perhaps the most pleasant surprise was that they went onwards to present the Christmas play that the gang was working on through the end of the cartoon. Using Snoopy's doghouse as the stable, the cast sang carols in order to tell the Nativity story. It proved to be the perfect way to end the play.

(I just became aware that Lee Mendelson, producer of "A Charlie Brown Christmas", died upon Christmas Day. Strangely poetic to think that one of the men involved in making such an enduring fixture of modern Christmas celebrations passed into eternity upon the sacred day.)

Finally, I spotted a handful of students at both plays. Pupils know that if I catch them at a public library or museum or, yes, a theatre, they earn a prize at their school library. I look forward to seeing the kids when we return to school