Writer the Pooh

To be a writer with a work in progress is to be in a constant state of tension. On the one hand, my imagination is drawn to the world of my story. What ARE those characters getting up to now? What are they saying and doing and is that what needs to come next in the manuscript? Characters go off on goose chases, much like me when I stop by Target for a box of envelopes.

And yet, like a music box tune that starts off at a vivace tempo and gradually winds down into a dirge, the story world will lose momentum if I stare at it without ceasing. Besides, if ‘m not to write the same story over and over, I must gather new material for my imagination to spin into gold.

So the other weight on my attention is a lively curiosity. My internal monologue can sound something like this: What if we didn’t put gender on our driver’s licenses? I mean, the nice MVA people already have my height, weight (well…), age, eye color, and MY EVER-SO-FLATTERING PICTURE. I don’t drive with my hoo-ha, so why is that even  relevant?

Followed immediately by: I could use another cuppa tea. Oh, there IS a cuppa tea in the microwave, one going lukewarm from the last time I reheated it.

And then: What is that cat doing on top of the fridge? Those cats, I mean… When is some brilliant soul going to patent feed-through birth control for feral cats? Somebody smarter than I am ought get on that, before mother cats rule the world…

This combination of internal focus and external distractability means I am usually in the wrong mental gear for whatever I’m doing. When it’s time to buckle down and write, I want to know what bird is making all that racket in the yard–what specific species of ave is creating that much noise? When it’s time to have a quiet chat with a friend going through a breakup, I am listening for my friend to offer an insight a duke might offer if his duchess had just left him.

This has always been how my mind works. I drive in silence because I need car-time to let that music box wind down. I also, though, notice details that delight me. Did you know England has a Tree of the Year? Is that not a terrific idea? I should choose a tree of the year on my property. The English and Scots also choose names for their houses. We name farms and businesses where I live (sometimes), but what should I name this house where I have written seventy different HEAs, raised my kid, mourned my parents, and swilled oceans of tea?

Any one of those casual questions can turn into a whole book. It’s as easy as this: What if two houses had the same name, and on a dark and stormy night, the heroine’s coachman got directions to the wrong one? I should write that!

What have you noticed in your wanderings lately that made you stop and think, stop and smile, stop and scowl? What SHOULD you name your house? To one commenter, I’ll send a $50 Amazon gift card.



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29 comments on “Writer the Pooh

  1. Sometimes my brain goes on overdrive and it refuses to calm down even to sleep.I wander into the ridiculous and crazy world of “what ifs” and “whys mode.What if my bucket list plan runs out of funds before my health or the other way round.” Why does it take the present government so long(UK) to agree what is best for the country when time is running out.Leaving the EU is no little happening.Sometimes my thoughts are just so silly that I laugh at myself so it’s not all doom and gloom.I love where I live,I love my home,my youngest granddaughter thinks I should name my flat after my name ___who ever heard a flat named Brenda !!!.So here I am living the remainder of my life still questioning the whys and what ifs of it all.It sure keeps me on my toes and that can’t be a bad thing.Please give yourself some respite from all the hard work Grace you have set yourself a very busy work schedule.Good luck with it all.

    • The UK’s situation has flummoxed even my Scottish friends, who pretty much shrugged their way through the indie referendum. It has to be taxing, no matter where you come down on the issues, to have the uncertainty go on for so long. I will wish you many good books to distract you from the uproar.

  2. “When is some brilliant soul going to patent feed-through birth control for feral cats? Somebody smarter than I am ought to get on that, before mother cats rule the world…”

    I read once that cats only allowed themselves to become domesticated because they couldn’t open doors. Although I’ve seen a few who could.

    Thanks for my first laugh of the day!

    BTW, I’ll name my house NEEDS A GOOD CLEANING.

    • I asked my PhD animal nutritionist brother about feed-through birth control for cats (he also has a master’s in reproductive physiology). His answer: Half the shelters in the country would close for lack of funding if the feral cat problem went away.
      Not what I wanted to hear.

  3. My house is privately named “Nevermore.” I have a raven statue in the backyard and a Halloween style perched on top of a bookcase in the study, aka office.

    I was general contractor for this house. It was hubris to think I could do a good job of it. I love this place, but “Nevermore.”

    • As soon as I saw the word “Nevermore,” in my head, I heard: Quoth the raven,”Nevermore.” Now I’m jonesing for some Poe.

  4. When I am overtired, I worry about everything.. big, medium and small worries. The next day I shake my head and wonder why I let myself worry as I can’t change things.

    We have southern style pillars on our front porch- so I am thinking we’d name our house Rose Haven Manor!

    And I like that idea— snowy evening- coach takes a wrong turn and ends up at the right manor house name but wrong location.
    And maybe the couple has met before??

    • With novellas, it’s usually most efficient if there’s a backstory. Saves space between the covers and can add motivation from the past. I like Rose Haven but I was sure you’d come up with something canine!

  5. I always love in British cozies how every cottage has a name for its address. Although I’m glad we don’t do that here!!

    • I think the naming convention is in part because so many of the houses pre-date numbering. I never gave house numbers a thought, until I moved here to Maryland. The rural routes had only gotten names and the houses numbers about twenty years before I moved in and the reason was because the 911 dispatchers needed exact addresses. “Turn at the old stump just past the bank barn with the herd of Charolais…” just doesn’t cut it when you’re whipping at long at top speeds.

  6. My house has a name – Angel House. My realtor sent me alone to view it as she had a conflict. When I met with her afterwards, she asked, “Well, did the angels sing?” and I answered, “The whole damn chorus line!” It’s been Angel House ever since. And everyone who comes into it remarks on the serenity of the place.

    • What a nice story, and a nice name. My mother’s homes were always full of light and bright colors, but she only named one of them, “Tree house,” because it had a tree coming up through the front porch, which the builder had carefully accommodated.

  7. We named our house a few years ago–Cabana di Musica. My husband is Italian so we wanted something to reflect that. It means *shack of music* :). My voice teacher’s house is *Villa di Musica* but her house is truly a mansion and ours is a typical suburban quad level. We kinda love the idea and I had a fancy sign made for my husband a few years ago and we installed it. Looks great!

    We’ve been in the throws of the Polar Vortex here in Chicago so I’ve been distracted by things having to do with pipes freezing (ours haven’t so far) and thawing (it’s now in the 40s after being 22 BELOW ZERO on Wednesday). Watching our backyard and the fog (vapor?)roll around when it was so cold was kinda humbling.

    My kids distract me when they call–I’ve explained about window film and using duct tape to close off cracks for frigid air coming in to apartments. Sweat pants can be slept in on top of flannel pjs.

    The weather has been crazy so plenty of tangents are possible. As much as I love sunshine, we pulled the blinds closed during the worst of it….now the blinds are open and our yard looks like a grey, icy SWAMP!

    • We hit zero in Maryland, which is not the coldest it has been here, but those windchills… And I watched the midwest go into deep freeze and hoped it was a cold snap, not a pattern to get stuck in. Then I see out in Tahoe, where my nephew lives, that they are due for six FEET of snow in a 24-hour period.
      I’m all for a snow day, and even a cold snap helps the bugs and trees stay in synch with the seasons, but this is ridiculous.

  8. You just made me laugh. And yes, it can be so relaxing just to disengage the gears and let your eyes see and your ears hear.

    I enjoy your books so much; your characters and world inhabit my mental topography.

    • We hit zero in Maryland, which is not the coldest it has been here, but those windchills… And I watched the midwest go into deep freeze and hoped it was a cold snap, not a pattern to get stuck in. Then I see out in Tahoe, where my nephew lives, that they are due for six FEET of snow in a 24-hour period.
      I’m all for a snow day, and even a cold snap helps the bugs and trees stay in synch with the seasons, but this is ridiculous.

  9. One formula for house naming:

    Animal + Georgahical Feature

    Examples: Fox Hill, Hippo Pond, Salamander Marsh.

    Our second house was named: Turtle Sands. Hubby named our current house, but did not follow the formula: Enchanted Stable. ‍♀️

    I showed up at the wrong restaurant to meet someone last fall. Same name. Didn’t even realize when I searched on Google Maps that there was more than one… There are contemporary twists available too.

    • One of my Scottish musician buddies was late for a gig one time in his whole career (so far). Two pubs with the same name about forty English miles apart… OOPS.

  10. I would definitely pay for a book where the hero or heroine end up at the wrong house with the right name – especially if you wrote it, Grace! Sometimes you do just have to let your thoughts wander. I’ve occasionally come up with solutions to problems by doing that.

    As for the name of my house? When the kids were younger, it could easily have been named The Zoo – or The Ranch since we’re in Texas. Now, I’m not sure.

    • My neighbors describe me as “the lady with all the cats.” The last time somebody did that, I pushed back, “I’m also a published author, an attorney, and a reasonably nice person much of the time…” But what they SEE are the cats.
      So many I live at the Cat House?

  11. Hmm… if I was naming my house I would call it The Love Shack. My mind does wander, it is hard to stay on track. I have two History papers due. One is due February 15th, another is due March 1st. I want to know everything so I have trouble staying on track.

    • The curse of the internet era: Life can be one great big rabbit hole. I sometimes forbid myself to leave my document when I’m writing new words in the morning. I just put a note in the margin: Verify French translation for “fell off his horse,” or: Make sure there was no real Lord O’Shaunessy in the Regency.
      Because if I go off on even one frolic, I can take a long, long time to get back on track.

  12. You could call your home Graceland. Oh, that’s already taken? Okay, then, maybe Gracehaven is a better option. As for my home, the house I live in now is the place I have lived in the longest (38 yrs). We are raising our children here, have taken care of both of my parents here until they passed away (here), suffered much pain and experienced much joy, here. This is the home we plan to leave sometime over the next few years, to move to a warmer climate and lower taxes (NY State is an expensive place to live!). I am resigned to that fact, that moving is the practical thing to do, but I can’t imagine my life being lived anywhere but on my beloved Long Island. And because of, or possibly in spite of, those things, I can’t for the life of me think of any other name for my house than HOME.

    • This is such a profound and touching comment, Celeste. I hope you get to stay until you are good and ready to leave. That sense of a good-bye looming just below the horizon reminds me of my fave Shakespeare sonnet:

      This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
      To love that well, which thou must leave ere long.

      I expect I will leave Maryland some time in the next few years, and move closer to my daughter in Oregon, but I’m not ready. The effort involved with moving is daunting, and before I make the leap, I want to have a sense of what wonderfulness I’m moving TOWARD, so the whole process isn’t simply one of grieving.
      And in a lot of families in this area, the usual term for where you grew up is simply, “The home place…” Grandma and Grandpa live back at the home place… And I knew of one estate that took as its name, “Home Place Everlasting.”

  13. Speaking of ending up at the wrong place because the name is the same…

    Two years ago, my son and I were driving near Boston on our way to Maine and I decided to show him one of my favorite hang out spots when I lived there in my early twenties–Quincy Market. We asked the front desk clerk at our hotel if she could give us directions. She was confused. Never heard of the place. (What? You live near Boston and you’ve never…) But she was kind and very professional. She quickly looked up the directions for us, sent it to her printer, and efficiently handed the paper over to us with a benevolent smile. “Have fun!” she chirped as we headed out the door.

    My son plugged in the directions on the GPS, and after an awe-inspiring jaunt through traffic in which not a single car had functioning blinkers, we ended up at Quincy Market. It didn’t look the same as I remembered. It had somehow morphed in size and merchandize to a deli market in Quincy, Massachusetts.

    So we bought a few sandwiches, asked for better directions from a clerk who could roll his eyes and say at the same time, “Happens all the time”, and left for the larger market…the one beside Fanueil Hall…the one in downtown Boston…the touristy one. And we ate our delicious Quincy Market sandwiches right there in the food court.

  14. “What ifs” are my passion. As an amateur historian, those “what if’s” lead me on merry chases through obscure websites and dusty libraries. Sometimes they will lead to writing a non-fiction article for a journal, or I’ll start writing a story around that supposition. Someday I’ll get up the courage to publish them.

  15. Healing House. In the 80’s when I had really bad heart disease, all I had to do was drive out to my lot in the country where my little house was being built, and I felt peace and healing. Several centuries ago, Native Indians lived in this area, and my lot has positive vibes, so maybe healing took place here.