Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Back to Normal??

The holidays are fun. They are a well-earned diversion from our mundane lives and by the end of the year, we need a diversion. The holidays are well-choreographed chaos beginning with planning family visits around EVERYONE’S schedule, the panic of choosing the right gifts for the right people and wrapping, bowing, labeling and shipping said gifts. It is the rush of writing the Christmas letter (yes, we are the annoying family that writes an update letter), addressing cards, getting stamps and mailing the cards in time for them to reach their destination before Christmas. It is the hunt for the perfect Christmas tree, the ornaments, lights, wreaths, garland and stockings hung with care. And feasting. We didn’t have one Christmas feast, we had three. We had the one when my parents came to visit (okay, we feasted at a restaurant), we had the feast when my sister came to visit and the one on Christmas Day with Nana. The holiday festivities are a huge, dramatic prelude to a short-lived climax and finally the “Thank you notes.” I do hope all of you wrote personal notes and didn’t send a mass text or tweet just saying “thanks.”

But now that the holidays are behind us and the last pine needle has been swept up, it’s good to get back to normal. There is a lot to be said for routine. I like routine. Everyone goes back to work and school and we have dinner at six. It’s comforting to know what to expect. But do we really know? Sure, the Big Man is back to work and the Little Man is back to his Play Care, but my car is leaving puddles of a mysterious fluid on the garage floor so it’s off to the shop for that. One of our big, yellow labs who chases the nocturnal thing on the fence every night precisely at 8:30 aggravated his hip. This morning he was stiff (sorry old man, you aren’t as young as you were).

As I’ve written before, I prefer to live in my planner without too much straying from the schedule of the day. My husband is more of the spontaneous ilk. We’ve both learned to adjust. I have learned to go to bed even if action items on my list haven’t been completed. My husband has learned to ignore my panic when he suddenly suggests we do something. He has also gotten better and will tell me on Thursday that we should take Little Man to the zoo on Saturday. To him that’s planning. To me that’s a whole rearrangement of chores and schedules (i.e. stress) but at least it gives me a few days to plan.

Life is constantly in flux and there are surprises that pop up out of nowhere that catch us off guard and make us say bad words that I don’t want Little Man to repeat in church. At least with a routine there is a framework, or scaffolding, to prevent us from falling too far off the cliff.
This is good to keep in mind for writing too. Recently, there was an excellent article in Writer’s Digest by James Scott Bell. He wrote about structure in our writing. Our stories, be they short or long, must have a structure to hang on – a beginning, middle, and end. Obviously there was more to the article than just that but basically that’s what we need to keep in mind. We may draft an outline, or chapter blocks, or jot a synopsis, but eventually, we have to put our story into some sort of order. What make our story interesting are the surprises of it. What do the characters do? How do they react? What is the “gasp” moment? And just to give you a little tid-bit about my novel, working title Murder at the Primrose Inn, the main character, Walter Martin, gets run over by his own car. You’ll have to read the book to see how that happens!!!

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