Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Writing Like a Hummingbird

By Augusta Scattergood

The aging oscillating fan in my office has cried uncle, given up in the relentless heat. The fan no longer rotates. Like that fan, this summer I’ve spent a lot of time sitting very still.

On the day the temperature inside my house never got below 84 at my writing desk, I happened upon Nicole Seitz’s post about thinking.  
Nicole validated my quiet activity, or rather, inactivity. Sitting and thinking creatively is different from just sitting with your face in front of a fan. Different and oh-so-necessary for writers.

Sometimes, when I’m faced with deadlines, too many projects piling up on my desk, or when—like now— one big project is complete and another awaits judgment, I buy the most captivating notebook at the stationery store, find a comfortable chair, and I begin thinking and scribbling.

Then I open my favorite writing book.

Like many writers, I have an entire shelf of craft books. I refer to them when I’m stuck on a plot issue, pondering point-of-view, muddling around the middle. Sometimes.

But I mostly avoid books with “Inspiration” in the title. I’m not that great at writing prompts. I don’t enjoy books that push me hard out of my comfort zone while I'm in the thinking stage of writing.

My favorite book, THE POCKET MUSE, is different. Every time I open it, something new jumps off the page and into my notebook. Monica Wood’s book is subtitled “ideas and inspirations for writing.” Even with that subtitle, I love it. This is why.

It’s compact and solid. One terrific bookmaking job!
I often smile just holding  it.

A soothing shade of green—the only color in it or on it other than black and white—frames the outside and the inside.

More things pack the pages than you’ve never thought about. Photographs, author quotes, (fake) horoscopes, fonts- wonderful fonts!

So many good things that turn sitting into creative thinking before you can say “Where’s my iced tea?”

Today I’m thinking about hummingbirds, and not just because they are flitting and fighting over our feeder. Here’s what Monica Wood says about them:

During the first draft of anything I write…I find myself getting up and down continually, almost as if the work were too bright to look at directly. I used to consider this approach to the blank page a flaw in my character, but I have come to refer to it affectionately as the Hummingbird Method of Writing.

Hummingbirds approach flowers in much the way I approach a first draft: sip, draw back, sip draw back…
I also like hummingbirds because they hibernate. In hostile conditions they can enter a torpor, their breathing nearly indiscernible, their reactions either very slow or entirely lacking.
Another hummingbird fact writers can relate to: twenty percent of its body weight is heart.

I just love that.

I love so much of this little book.  I even love the prompts, like this one that took me right to the heart of one of my characters:

Write about the last time you got your wish.

Or this:

Imagine a coat. Imagine the pocket of that coat. Imagine what’s in the pocket.

I understand Southern writers of yore did a lot of pondering on their wide, blue-ceilinged, wrap-around porches, iced drinks in hand. As huge ceiling fans turned the hot air around, Mr. Faulkner, Miss O’Connor and their cronies cranked out a creative thought or two.

Sitting in a big chair, dipping into THE POCKET MUSE, watching my hummingbird flit—all while thinking quietly— will do just fine this summer.

Here’s a link to Monica Wood’s website, with a few of her writing prompts. And what a treat I discovered there- a second edition, in blue! 

And almost before I added the newer book to my wish list, a very thoughtful person bought it for me. 

(Note the stickie notes in my green book. I can’t bear to scribble in it, but I do put an occasional, tiny underlining or check mark.
As of now, the blue edition is pristine.)

Augusta Russel Scattergood spends her summers writing in the northeast where it’s supposed to be cooler than her home in St. Petersburg, Florida. Her first middle-grade novel, historical fiction set in 1964 Mississippi, GLORY BE, will be published in January, 2012, by Scholastic and is already available for pre-order.


Laura S. said...

This is so weird because I wrote a post comparing hummingbirds to writing a couple Fridays ago! I got it from a wooden hummingbird box with hummingbird trivia my husband's Omah gave to us for our anniversary. I wonder if the author has the same box?! That'd be cool! I love prompts so I'll have to check out this book. Thanks for sharing!

Lee Stokes Hilton said...

Very thoughtful post -- I feel moved to write!

Augusta Scattergood said...

And the books are a total bargain on Amazon right now, so yes Laura, I'd say check it out. Lee, can't wait to see how moved you are and what you write. Thanks for your comments.

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Write a book said...

The comparison between writing and hummingbird is truly awesome