Monday, August 30, 2010

Capturing the Elusive

Post by Jenny

I have a hummingbird feeder hanging outside my front window. Every August, I typically have one or two regular customers. This year, though, no such luck. I heard the birds buzzing to and fro, so I knew they had returned. But why were they giving me the brush off?

I wondered if maybe a different feeder would help. The old one was impossible to clean, anyway. So I bought a new one, filled it with fresh, homemade nectar, and hung it in the same spot. The next morning, I thoughtlessly threw back the curtain, and, lo and behold, there was the hummingbird. For one split-second, he hung above the feeder, shimmering like an ornament. Then he zoomed off. As far as I can tell, the little sucker hasn’t been back. (But I have no shortage of sugar-loving wasps.)

I’m pretty sure my abrupt opening of the curtain scared the bird away for good. Hummingbird season in my part of town is short, and I’m disappointed that I’ll have to wait another year to try again. But it got me thinking about how creative-types try to capture the elusive. Wildlife photographers sit in blinds for hours waiting for the blink-and-you-miss-it shot. Actors rehearse, balancing craft and chemistry until their performances become much more than merely ‘playing a part.’

Writers capture the elusive, too, in a variety of forms—an astoundingly unique plot twist, for example. Spot-on dialogue. A succinctly evocative descriptive passage. On the rare occasion, when I sit down to write, the elusive is not so elusive. My characters go above and beyond, surprising me with their inventiveness. The completed pages pile up. I am, as the athletes say, in the zone.

Other times, it all flies out the window. Every paragraph is work. My characters are dull and two-dimensional. Their dialogue stinks. They couldn’t care less about making my life easy, and the more I nag them, the more they resist. The farther I toss out that net, the wider they disperse.

So, what’s the cure, what coaxes the elusive near enough to grab? Patience…give it time. Perseverance…don’t give up. Progress…keep the forward momentum going, even if it means switching to another project. Preparation…set an inviting table, and see who shows up.

How do you capture the elusive in your writing?


Patricia Stoltey said...

How to capture the elusive in my writing? I have no idea. It's one of those things that just happens when I least expect it. Those are the moments that make writing a joy.


Name: Luana Krause said...

I think if you TRY to capture it, it eludes you, but if you just wait, it comes. Don't spin your wheels and waste energy. Keep your focus.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

I hope that each time I sit down to write I find the zone, but since that doesn’t happen (except in my dreams) I simply struggle, write what I can, and hope for the best next time.

Jenny said...

Just keep writing, no matter what, right? If it's awful, throw it out, but if it's

Thanks for your insightful comments!

Jennifer Carter said...

I had the same problem with hummingbird feeders when I moved out here. I used the same kind my parents do and they have swarms of hummingbirds but none seemed interested in my feeders. Then I noticed that we had a regular visitor most of the summer to our honeysuckle vine! They also seem to love our hot pink dianthus, plus the wasps don't bug them as much. It's so cool to see them in their natural environment too--just like the gold finches landing on our sunflowers and wrestling the seeds out one by one. I think that sometimes trying to force writing is like trying to force the birds to drink out of plastic flowers instead of the real thing--so much better to just let it come naturally. :)

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