Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Bold and the Bucketful

Oh my goodness gracious.

Y'all, it's been a trip. As a matter of fact, it's been several. In the past two weeks I have driven a thousand miles, visited with more wonderful writers than I can count, and read-and-critiqued 678,000 words. That is no imposition - I LOVE reading stories and getting a chance to visit with their authors - but like... you know how you have three platefuls at Thanksgiving, and when you belch afterwards, you can kind of taste everything at once?

Well, let me tell you: I have shotgunned everything from inspirational homestead romance to body horror to middle-grade fantasy... and shoveling all that down like Garfield at a pan of lasagna makes for some really peculiar dreams. Is Ambien basically just Pepto Bismol for your subconscious? Asking for a friend.

Also, I saw this car while I was out in California earlier this month. Yes, that is a for-real fully-recessed license plate.

Kind of makes you think about how much extra effort it is to craft an intricate, deliberate departure from the norm... and how much more fascinated we are with the result.

Also kinda makes you want to lean out the window and holler "TAKE A BATH, HIPPIE!"

...not that you would, of course.

And speaking of going the extra mile to depart from the norm -

The Last Cowboys Court in Canadian Texas

You see this little snapshot here? I took it at The Last Cowboy's Court in Canadian (the BEST hidden gem of the Texas Panhandle!) - and it is my new everything.

They've freshly renovated absolutely everything, so it's a wonderful place to stay - but do you see how they've done up the bathroom here? That is a bona-fide old feed bucket they've used for the bathroom sink. The shower in the mirror behind it is made from corrugated steel barn siding. The wood plank towel rack probably came from the same building. There is an old family photo above the sink, and feathers in the dip jar - and the part that really gets me is that everything in this photo is so deeply rooted in its place. New or used - everything you see there came from THERE, right down to the soap.

I think as writers we worry a lot about making sure our work has all the industry-standard fixtures. You know, the literary equivalent of a Holiday Inn suite. Often times, the only alternatives we ever see are kitschy, over-the-top novelty themes firehosed all over the walls of a tourist-trap motel by a corporate decorator on a business trip.

But y'all... powerful, intentional, authentic divergence is a thing of beauty. The best stories I've ever read (published or otherwise) remind me of this photo here. Whether it's a setting, a mood, a character, a conflict - the author has used second-hand pieces of themselves to construct something new and breathtakingly special.
It takes huge confidence to do something like that. You cannot pick up easy-to-follow instructions for building a galvanized bucket-sink from IKEA or Home Depot. It is tremendously hard to build something original AND functional, out of nothing but the plan in your head.

But I'm so, so grateful that you are up for the challenge. And I hope you know you don't have to do it alone. No barn-raising is a solitary enterprise - no matter what kind of critters you mean to hose down in those stalls!