Snatched Seconds & Stolen Prose


This week, I've made a joyful discovery. I've remembered the art of stealing prose from snatched seconds and borrowed minutes when a hour or a day's an unimagined luxury.

I had this skill when I was younger and juggling grad school, a colicky infant, and (most often) full-time teaching. Still needing to write fiction, I'd store the raw ingredients the way a squirrel stores nuts. Then, whenever I had time to kill stuck in a waiting room or the little guy at last conked out, I'd pull out my pen or little notepad, and all the fluttering, trapped words would explode from my hand like a flock of penned birds desperate to escape.

Even a few minutes yielded pages, and because finding time was so darned difficult, I often found myself imagining the story, working through characters and complications in my head. As a result, when I did snag a few minutes, I was never, ever at a loss for words, as I so often am when I have hours a-plenty to write ideas that still require "think time."

Once my child became more independent and I left the day job behind, I was certainly able to accomplish a great deal more on the writing front. But I also became spoiled, unable to write unless I had large blocks of time without the threat of interruption. I practically went into a writerly swoon at every small demand on my time. You'd think my muse had somehow evolved into the colicky infant!

Recently, however, a family situation involving a seriously-ill relative has thrown my rarefied schedule into chaos. I've been spending large blocks of time living from a suitcase, trapped in a dark hospital room, and never know what my schedule will be for more than a few days at a time (if that), and am constantly interrupted by calls from or visits with all sorts of medical, social service, and other professionals.

And ever so slowly, my writing's learning to fit itself inside small spaces, to ignore the therapy session going on in the same cramped room (which usually reeks of whatever unidentifiable glop the kitchen staff has inflicted on the old, sick people that day), to right my train of thought even after a conversation about sputum studies (what fun!) has derailed it. I'm learning that my writing not really a hothouse orchid after all, but instead a vibrant dandelion, to spring up anyplace, in any circumstance, even when the Fates come gunning with their Round Up.

It's a welcome gift, this image. So this week, let me blow a single seed of it to you.

Comments

kenyonn2000 said…
Very, very true. Sometimes having that urgency, the "have no choice must do this NOW" feeling, is the spark you need...
When we're lucky, that "spark" comes in the form of a deadline (and an advance payment we don't want to have to give back!)
Jeanna said…
Colleen, is this why I carried a remember book around the twenty three years I worked as a designer? They are filled and stacked in my studio now and I pull from them everyday! Little things that happened that *struck* me are suddenly appearing in The Opal House. This is a great post! Love your down to earth approach...Thank You for revealing! Also, call on me if I can lighten your load in any way! I am close... Jeanna
Thanks so much for the very kind offer, Jeanna. And I like to think that none of those snippets and ideas is ever really wasted. Good luck with The Opal House!
Mylène said…
It's almost a joy to read a post like this (though I grieve for what you are dealing with right now), because it confirms: writing will out. If you are a writer, writing will out.