Friday, December 20, 2019

As the pendulum swings.

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For more than a year I have been swinging on a pendulum (creatively speaking) between an open floodgate of ideas drowning me with too many possibilities and a yawning void echoing the chirp of crickets. Back and forth. Back and forth. Floodgate. Void. Floodgate. Void.

At the beginning of this year I felt a pull to go to Scotland. Then it left. Then it came back. Then it left. So, when an opportunity to attend a writer's retreat in Scotland happened along, I grabbed it, hoping to shake something loose.

You see, one of my many floodgate ideas swirls around the experiences of a notable Scottish ancestor. I thought visiting her homeland would help me gain focus and maybe flesh out her story.

I spent three weeks in Scotland, and pardon my gushing, but I absolutely love that ancestral homeland! 

Nine days were spent with writers in workshops, conversations, and excursions. Hanging with other writers was a balm I've needed for a long time. Still, a story eluded me.

After the retreat, I journeyed east of Edinburgh to an area where my ancestor had lived, and spent several days exploring. I strolled along the coast of the North Sea, her favorite place, then hopped on a bus to her hometown. Surely I would feel a story there, right? But no muse met me... instead I had a disturbing experience and left disheartened. 

My husband joined me in Edinburgh after I was done with the retreat and my research. It was mid-August, so the Festival Fringe--"the world's largest arts festival"--was in full swing. Edinburgh exudes amazing creative energy during the festival. Still, a story eluded me.

We had a blast exploring and eating our way through the Scotland. (Haggis with "neeps and tatties" is delicious, ya'll!) Oh, and if you ever get the chance to go to The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, do it!

Liverpool, England was next on the agenda and we walked along the Royal Albert Dock where my ancestors sailed to America. Then onward to London, and a day trip to Chawton to see the home where Jane Austen lived and wrote. (If you read my previous post Jane Austen Binging this will not come as a surprise.) Still, a story eluded me.

Upon my return home, I went into a slump again. The void.

Then the pendulum swung towards the floodgate, but this time clarity shone upon one of the ideas and a story surfaced for a new screenplay... incorporating the aforementioned odd experience in my ancestor's hometown as a twist. I immediately opened Screenwriter and typed until the idea faded.

Now I am back in the void.

And that's okay.

Thanks to the supportive writers I met at the retreat, I am being patient. They encouraged me to relax about the process, and assured me that even if a story comes in fragments, I can write a fragment at a time until it all comes together.