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Because spinning sounds like losing control.

And it’s not as dire as that, I’ve just been busy. Busy with my freelance writing work, with family–it’s my husband’s birthday today–and with moving forward with my creative writing process: create, recreate, revise, edit, submit, repeat. And that’s only for my short stories. As for my completed historical novel manuscript, I’m taking a break from querying agents. After receiving some constructive feedback, but no offers of representation, I will be back to the editing desk, come fall. For now, what better impetus to get a second manuscript under my belt than a little healthy rejection?

So, I’ve been working on my latest WIP, a multi-generational novel–and spiraling. Spirals are a shape I’ve had in mind for a while, since reading Sarah Smarsh’s Heartland (my take on that book, here) with her potent imagery of Kansan funnel clouds. (And, we had our first tornado warning of the season the other day, here in Maryland.) As it happened, the book I picked up as a tandem read to Heartland was Jane Alison’s Meander, Spiral, Explode: Design and Pattern in Narrative, a fascinating craft book that takes the traditional story arc (or wave) shape–ya know, rising action-climax-falling resolution–to task. Or, at least suggests various other shapes our stories can take: spirals, webs, radials.

This led me to thinking about the “shape” of my creative process, which feels very much like spiraling. If you picture a funnel cloud spiraling, I’m the still eye in the center (most of the time). Of all the swirling ideas around a theme, say song and singing (one of the major themes in my WIP), I need to grab hold of the ideas that might fit and let the rest blow on by. Thus far, I’ve grabbed onto Finnish lament singing and folk songs; American Blues; Christian hymns and spirituals; and the best of the 80s radio hits: Whitney Houston, Wham, Elton John. (As you can see, I’ve held onto more than I’ve let go.)

Yet, such amassing of material around a theme–this kind of gathering research–I find much more freeing than the longitudinal historical research I did for my completed novel. Following along a historical plot line (albeit with fictional characters) was a bit constraining. And I’d thought it would have been the other way around: plot line laid out would free me to explore the other elements more fully: character, theme, setting. And maybe it did. But I’m having fun, this time around, creating in a freer way.

Now, it’s your turn, how do you capture ideas for your writing? How do you construct a post, a story, or book? Do you follow a forward-moving path? Do you regress? Do you turn in circles?

Of course, narratives move forward–the stories we create and the stories we are. But, I’m finding, we don’t always have to push them forward quite so hard. In fact, I will have a wonderful opportunity to look back on my own personal history soon. My boys and I are headed to Ohio, and I’ll have the opportunity to show them the house on the old country road I still think of as home.

I was thinking about our trip as I had a funny exchange on Twitter with the novelist Ivelisse Rodriguez, author of Love War Stories. (She was a featured author and read at the Barrelhouse literary conference I talked about here.) A Cleveland venue where she was appearing blurbed her as a young writer and she corrected them. I joked that maybe we’re all young in Cleveland. But then I got to thinking that I always feel young when I return to Northeast Ohio, maybe because I left at 19 and time for me, like my memories, has frozen in place. Let’s just say, I’ll be glad to get back, feel young, and look afresh at my native place through the eyes of my boys. Maybe we’ll turn around in circles a few times–even get a little lost.

What are your upcoming summer adventures–in reading, in writing, in travel? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

P.S. Want more Rust Belt? I’m always on at FB. Want the best in lit? Check out Parhelion Literary Magazine, where I am the new Features Editor.

23 thoughts on “Still Spiraling

  1. You’re rich in treasured memories – your words always intrigue me, I look forward to where the spiraling thoughts take you next! PS – I’m always inspired when I stop here at your blog! Happy Summer!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Shelley. Likewise, I always enjoy your posts–the stories and the beautiful photos. You certainly have a gift! I am so glad to be entering summer, although I always have the vacation mindset from school days, when, in fact, my summer is just as busy as the rest of the year, work-wise. But at least I’ll be able to do some of my work, poolside! Last week of school for my kiddos!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I find inspiration in random places, like reading that you’ve been listening to Elton John. I then blogged about my impressions of one of his songs and what memories I’ve attached to it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is what’s so wonderful about blogging, don’t you think, Michelle? That we can inspire each other with just a word or phrase to create something new. Off to read your post on Elton John now! Thanks so much for stopping by here. Enjoy your OH spring, now that it’s finally sprung!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sounds like a great trip to take with your sons. I enjoyed reading about your writing process. Good luck with the editing in your novel.

    Have you read John McPhee’s book on writing? He has a unique way of diagraming his books and articles.

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    1. Thank you, Eilene. It’s a slogging process–the editing and submission (and again and again) process. I hope to have the finished novel in my hands one of these years, but I like it enough not to rush it. We’ll see.

      I haven’t read John McPhee’s book on writing–just had to look it up. I should have known it; it’s highly lauded! Sounds fascinating. Thank you for the suggestion!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Another intriguing post, Rebecca — your words always inspire and give me pause to think. I’m currently traveling, but soon I’ll (try) to get back to a more sustained reading/writing program. Deb

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Deb! I’m also traveling at the moment–headed back to MD from OH tomorrow. We had two beautiful days–a pool day and a tooling-around-the-island day, so wonderful! I hope your travels are going as well and that you’re getting a chance to read. I’m off to get a little reading done now for the website–one of them, anyway!

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      1. I was in Williamsburg (my sis-in-law lives there), Richmond, and then a couple of days in D.C. Loved the National Gallery! Ate too much, drank too much (well, just wine, lol), and now that I’ve rolled back home I’m eating salad and trying to read as well, LOL. Your trip sounds wonderful! Glad you had a great time! Deb


    1. Sometimes it certainly feels like that–but even that can be good for creativity, I think. So long as you get a free moment somewhere to jot all your thoughts down. Hope you’re well, Poppy!


    1. Yes, I loved King’s ON WRITING, too. So motivating. Many craft books seem to say the same thing–keep on writing!–but it’s a rare one that I’ll return to again and again. King’s and Alison’s books are two of them.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I really enjoy your posts Rebecca and look forward to reading more of them this summer. Your references to the writing process are appreciated; I’m late to the game but enjoying it nonetheless.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! It’s all a slow-growing process, this writing thing. We’re all “late to the game,” learning something new every day. I also look forward to reading your blog. Happy summer!


  6. Congratulations on your new position Rebecca! Being a numbers person, the first thing that came to mind for me when I saw your title was the Fibonacci sequence. I love spirals and enjoy finding them in nature. My writing process usually begins with my pictures. As I edit them, they begin to tell the story.

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