Helga’s Post #59 — Today I went on a hike through the desert of California’s Coachella Valley along the San Andreas Fault. A first visit here for me.
I was fascinated to learn that despite its benign name (Saint Andrew), the San Andreas Fault is a violent and destructive killer. Over its long history, spasms of its enormous energy have been released in countless earthquakes along its great length. These have ranged in magnitude from slight tremors to cataclysmic upheavals and rupturing of Earth’s surface.
You wouldn’t know its violent nature as you traverse the sand dunes and arrive suddenly at an oasis dotted with gigantic palm trees. Everything looks so peaceful, making it difficult to imagine the earth could suddenly open beneath your feet.
But this is not a National Geographic blog sort of thing. How does it relate to writing? I am not sure it does. Except there is a link between this location and what it does for my own writing. The wide vistas are so unusual for someone living in Vancouver where the ocean is so close, and high rugged mountains define the area. The difference is that Vancouver is limited in every direction but east. The Pacific Ocean to the west, mountains to the north, the U.S. border to the south. Vancouver can only expand to the east. Where I live, I see mountains or the ocean. Nothing like the endless horizon and barren mountains of the California desert. There is nothing to stop the eye. The landscape goes on forever. A curious feeling.
It has an interesting effect on me. It allows the mind to open and expand. To change direction and say, wait a minute, why did I limit my story line in my new novel to such and such? Why does my protagonist have to work for the U.N. instead of a dubious think tank? Truth be told, I have trouble digging my way out of a particularly challenging scene that defines the rest of what happens in my story. It’s a nasty experience. I think and think, and try to fix it, but it doesn’t seem to work because I refuse to change direction from the original idea.
So time to let it happen. To face the music. To say, if it doesn’t work, don’t waste time to fix it. A blank page doesn’t have to be my enemy. It can just as easily be my friend. My conspirator. My opportunity to create something better without the shackles of pages written so far. I don’t own these pages anything. This is after all the prerogative and the power of a writer: to create a new story. To create new characters and kill the ones who refused to perform. To create loving tender relationships or murderous conspiracies. To save the world or let it go to hell in a handbasket.
Nobody else in the world has such power. We writers do, so let’s use it.
And we are trying. There is a new wind blowing here in the desert. Writing buddy Paula is hard at work creating a local writing group. At yesterday’s inaugural meeting some new talent showed up. Two women who would love to write novels and are willing to commit to learning the craft. What is encouraging and proves again just how useful writing groups are, is their background. One is a paramedic, trained firefighter and has lots of experience working inside the prison system. The other woman has written short stories that have been well received by established authors. She has a huge family story to tell that just gave me goose bumps listening. More potential members are waiting in the wings.
I am big believer of synergy. The potential benefit of each new or established writing group member’s experience could benefit everyone in the group. Will it get off the ground? Too soon to tell. But if it does, who knows, there may be potential for collaboration across the miles.
Meanwhile, I better go back go my own project. I have to make progress and get that draft finished, or no writing group in the world is going to help.
But it’s fun to explore new horizons. Happy writing to all of you out there.