Writers on the Way to Something Else

blogger: Cynthia Ruchti

Writers on the way to something else are among the most inspired.

An ancient prophet said, “Do not despise these small beginnings.” For me, small meant an inch-long, bright yellow blossom tucked among mottled leaves in the woods that border our yard.

Writers on the Way to No Place Special

My oldest granddaughter and I took advantage of a spring-long-waited-for on Sunday afternoon and walked around the yard and the pond, observing. She too is a writer in the making, as are we all, truth be told. Perpetually “in the making.” My granddaughter and I noted unusual bugs, weeds that looked like cauliflower would if it were downy soft and standing on a wobbly stem, buds emerging after waiting in line so long they jumped when it was finally their turn, the stark contrast of a single daffodil against the aged wood of an old bench, bleached grasses bowing to the youthful versions rising at their feet.

We walked slowly. Ambled. Without destination. On our way to no place special that day. But it became special because we observed, listened, noticed.

Writers on the Way to Discovery

We picked two wildflowers and studied them. One boasted eye-catching yellow–a welcome color after winter’s monochromicity (I don’t even care that’s not a real word). The second wildflower was so tiny and delicate, it could only be observed at close range–pinkish white with deeper rose-colored veins. Appreciation reigned as the theme of the afternoon. But curiosity pushed us to add knowledge to our appreciation.

writers way“What are they? What are the names of these wildflowers? Do you know anything about them?”

A round of applause, please, for the technology that allowed us to find out almost instantly. The yellow flower? Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum; also called Adder’s Tongue, Dogtooth Violet). Its long, broad leaves that rise from the base of the flower stalk resemble the mottled dorsal of a brook trout, hence Trout Lily. In the image, they’re the yellow, spiky blossoms in the shadow of the other, larger flowers.

The delicate pink-white flower with deeper pink veins and pink-tipped stamens? Diminutive in the image as well as on the woodland floor. The Spring Beauty (Claytonica Virginica).

Writers on the Way to Deeper Meaning

As we read further about the Spring Beauty, not rushing through the process but soaking up details, we discovered that Spring Beauties crave light and will close up at night or in dark weather. The tubers are edible and taste like radishes when raw or potatoes when cooked.

But another notation stopped us. They bloom only three days. We saw them because we had our eyes open on one of those three brief days of the Spring Beauty’s life-cycle. We would have missed its entire blooming season if we’d chosen to stay inside.

Writers on the Way to Wondering What She’s Talking About

Life is what we write about. It’s easy to get so caught up in the process of getting words onto paper that we fail to live the life we’re trying to write about. What if we spent less time plotting and more time ambling? How would our writing change if we wandered around more with no purpose but observing, noticing? What if we marveled more and marketed less? Discovered more and debated less? Listened to the non-verbal cues of nature, humanity, and our own souls? What kind of writers could we become?

Have you noticed that Jesus is recorded as having performed some of His most astonishing miracles when He was on the way to something else?writers hope

What astonishing moments could we collect–could we create–if we let life interrupt and inform us?

 

Tell us about a seemingly small discovery that inspired your writing lately. How often do you allow yourself to amble? What nugget of research have you uncovered while on your way to something else?

49 Responses

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  1. Nothing better than God-winks on an amble with the grands. I have grandsons, more interested in critters than flowers. One hike along a stream found dozens and dozens of turtles sunning themselves on logs in the water. As we approached, the line-up of turtles plopped into the water, one after another. It happened over and over, domino runs of turtles. We’ve hiked the same trail since, hoping for a rerun. Thus far, it was a once-in-lifetime experience. It brings to mind a long-ago walk in the woods with my grandmother, when she showed me hidden jack-in-the-pulpits and may apples.

  2. Lump in throat. I’m writing the story of my grandparents (Clabe and Leora Wilson) who lost three sons in WWII, but I also have their earlier stories to carve into larger narratives. Yesterday, because of Peace Officer Memorial Day today, one town (Stuart, Iowa) posted a story of their nightwatchman who lost his life because of bank robbers. My grandfather Clabe was hired as the next “nightwatch.” I shared my blog about him, including a picture of him wearing a badge, and they were so glad to learn about it. It felt like the Lord went ahead of me to open a door to begin to share their Stuart stories. Lump in throat. Thankful.

    • Joy, your comment piqued my interest, and I had to hop over to your blog to learn more. What a blessing that you get to be the keeper of these family stories and have the opportunity to share them!

      • It was such a surprise–“out of the blue,” an yet is an answer to prayers I’d journaled a couple of decades ago. The Wilson stories are under Turn of the Century, Depression Era, and WWII categories–ones that won’t be told in Leora’s Story, which is about the war losses (including the husband shortly after) but also how she successfully lived on to age 97, fulfilling her dream of a place of her own and family nearby–after losing half her family in only 3 years.

    • Cynthia Ruchti says:

      What a great story!

  3. Amanda Cox says:

    I’m a person whose writing suffers if I don’t take time to amble. It is where my favorite writing comes from. On a long drive home from my grandmother’s house, I saw a baby bouncer in the median of a highway. Letting my mind wander as I drove turned that moment into a novel length story.

    Most of my blog posts about life spring from little ambling observations made in nature or from things my children say. That might be why blogging has been such a struggle lately, my lack of wandering and observing in the midst of a lot of doing. I think I could use a little wandering and enjoying the “in between” every day, even if just for a few minutes. Thank you for that reminder!

  4. I love what you said about Jesus performing miracles on his way to somewhere else. I’d never thought of that before. So often, in both my writing journey & my faith journey, I miss an opportunity because I’m rushing somewhere else. Thanks for the reminder to slow down and really see what’s going on around me.

  5. Being on the way to somewhere I don’t wanna go, I gotta make sure I go by way of where I wanna be.
    * Heaven may be cool, but my personal Via Dolorosa sucks, so I’m urgently enjoined to look carefully for the flowers bravely lifting their heads from the cracks in the paving-stones.
    * And in their bright-nodding courage, I find the strength to go on.

    • Cynthia Ruchti says:

      So much truth there–the bright-nodding courage. On a trip to the Canadian wilderness years ago, it was a columbine that had worked its way through a crack in the rocks that gave me courage to endure the miserable cold, wet, and discomfort to focus on the indescribable beauty.

  6. Katie Powner says:

    Once while driving with my husband (literally on our way to somewhere else!), a strong wind picked up. We were in the open plains of Montana and all of a sudden that wind brought a veritable wall of tumbleweeds rolling toward us. They swarmed the road and car like a stampede of wiry cattle and my husband shouted, “It’s the Tumbleweed Uprising! We’re under attack!” Ever since, I’ve been pondering a story with the title Tumbleweed Uprising. I’m determined to use it someday!

    • Cynthia Ruchti says:

      Made me (and I’m sure others) laugh. The Tumbleweed Uprising. Coming to a bookstore near you soon!

  7. For me, writing has led to self-discovery and finding my voice through my life experiences. It is cathartic and healing while also helping those who are walking a similar path in life. It truly is a gift!

  8. Carol Ashby says:

    I often find surprises in my research for writing Roman era historical. One MC in the novel I’m releasing this month gets kidnapped and sold as a gladiator so his friends have to cross half the Empire trying to get him freed. That meant I had to learn daily details such as diet, practice regimens, and standard business practices (and it truly was a business).
    *I learned that many successful gladiators married and had children, and if you didn’t die in the first few years, you might survive to a ripe old age, like the retired gladiator in Ephesus whose family erected his memorial stone when he died at the age of 99!

  9. God has been challenging me to live in each moment. I’m so good at looking to the next thing that needs to be done; I think I’ve made it into a super power. But, when I’m operating in it, I miss out on the beauty in each moment. I love taking morning walks outdoors. The peace the sunlight shining on my head, or the blossoms just opening or the mountains in the distance instills inside me fuel me for being creative. There’s something about capturing a glimpse of God’s creation that is deeply satisfying.

  10. I so love this post, Cynthia! If nothing else, there is a peace restored when we take time to enjoy our Creator’s work. It’s even better when you can interact with it (like the bird who stares at me on my lunch break until I share whatever I’m eating).

  11. Dear Cynthia, what a lovely offering of grandmotherly love. My meanderings around home and garden while carrying my first grandbaby have mined moments worth writing about too. I look into his face and see an expression of mesmerized pleasure while he enjoys the beauty of fragrant lilacs and the dainty petals of magnolias. He helps me see how deep and wide we’re loved by the Creator of spring flowers, because I know my love for a grandchild–though huge–looks shrunken next to God’s love for him, for me, for the world.
    I welcome the rearranging of my writing time when it means time spent with my little guy. I hear him stirring…off I go.
    Blessings ~ Wendy Mac

  12. Susan Sage says:

    A pastor said two small words: list making, and those two words became the conduit for one of my favorite blogs. Another time I saw a man with a metal detector and wrote what became my most shared flash fiction story. When we keep our eyes wide-open and our notebooks handy, God’s inspiration is all around whether seen or heard.

    • Susan, your words brought back the memory of how my first novel, “Blessed Are The Pure of Heart”, got written…I saw a roadside memorial cross, and wondered about the story behind it. being far too lazy to do the actual research, I made one up.

    • Cynthia Ruchti says:

      Eyes open, we forge ahead!

      • Cynthia, the way you phrased this reply reminded me of a poem whose author is unknown to me, but that has been in my memory for lo these forty years. May I share it with you?
        —-
        We are those fools who would not rest
        in the dull earth we left behind,
        but burned with a passion for the West
        and drank strange frenzy from its wind.
        The world where wise men live at ease
        fades from our unregretful eyes
        as blind across uncharted seas
        we stagger on our enterprise.

      • Andrew’s poem = The Ship of Fools by St. John Lucas, sometimes credited to Ernest Shackleton as the first stanza appeared in his expedition journal.

        https://eshackleton.com/2014/12/05/the-ship-of-fools-2/

  13. Beautiful, Cynthia. I’ve been allowing myself to amble more and more. While I’ll think I’m headed down one way, a new path opens for me. And I’m learning that the unexpected (God’s plan) is so much better than what I’d planned. *And I’ve been waiting for our cactus to bloom again … I’ve only seen the yellow roses once in 6 years or so.

  14. Ha! As soon as you described them, I knew you were speaking of Spring Beauties. Also called Siberian Miner’s Lettuce, the flower itself can be eaten and makes a slightly sweet salad! A favorite in our area.

    • Cynthia Ruchti says:

      This is so fun to collect another little bit of information, Kristen. And ha! I KNEW someone would know the flower before I finished the sentence. Learning real flower names is something that is yet on my wish list.

  15. Cynthia, I haven’t stopped by for a while, but I’m glad I did today. I loved this post, especially sentences like this: “What if we marveled more and marketed less?” Yes! This was timely, too, in that after writing a devotional for a book I’m doing for Barbour with an author friend, I went for a walk and smelled lilacs and enjoyed so much spring beauty in my little mountain town. Within an hour thunderheads had moved in, and right now it is pouring both rain and pea-sized hail! I’m so glad I followed God’s nudge to take my walk then.

    And, yes, I like noting when Jesus did miracles on his way somewhere else. I try to remember that interruptions are often his gift to us, if only we have eyes to see. Thanks for this wonderful reminder of the joy of ambling.

  16. I know a writer who climbed a locked fence and snuck onto the grounds of a museum. This person discovered that there was long grass hanging from the top of the riverbank, and that the grass reached down to just above the waterline on the wandering river.
    She then used that seemingly meaningless tidbit of information in a scene to “hide” the MC’s small child during an enemy raid.
    Her legal team would like to point out that the sign on the fence that she climbed said “no littering” So there, she did not litter.

  17. Grace says:

    A bit to wordy for me. I think if a thing is saying or writing. Get to the point and say what you you want to say. I just don’t have patience for all the needless words just to fill a page.

  18. I’ve been an angler since childhood. The dog tooth violets in the close behind my childhood home were one of the harbingers of spring that I looked for every year. Nevertheless, as an adult novelist longing to be published, I feel the pressure to do everything but amble. Your phrase about doing more marveling than marketing particularly struck me, as today’s publishing world wants writers to build an online audience before considering a debut author. I feel pulled between novel-writing and blogging. It feels like blogging takes more energy and that robs me of the energy I need for the books. It feels like a Catch-22.

    • Cynthia Ruchti says:

      Sharon, I completely understand and agree that it’s a bit of a Catch-22. I needed, after all, to write this blog. 🙂 But, it fed my approach to the novel I’m working on. It filled my creative tank so I have something to pour out. And it resonated with many whom I might not have reached without it. In fact, I returned from the seemingly ambling walk with four ideas for a client’s marketing proposal. A curiosity, isn’t it, how slowing down can help speed up other tasks?

  19. Late to the party, but here all the same. What a wonderful post, Cynthia. I have to say, until recently, I have been so wrapped in the have to do’s that I haven’t ambled. However within the last month the stress of my Grandmother’s cancer rapidly—but still horrifically drawn out—decline, my husband out of town more than he’s home, picking up a temporary full time job, and other overwhelming chaos, I have been on the verge of breakdown. Which means for the first time in my recollection, I can just sit with an empty mind. With the long awaited spring finally arriving, I decided to sit outside and watch the birds. It hasn’t been a wonderful experience and for the first time, not only do we have blue birds in our yard, but we have three families of birds nesting in our bird houses. I have spent hours watching them and it has been a healing and peaceful process. Words are starting to come back and after I get off here, I am going to brainstorm some new ideas. You can bet there will be a blue bird somewhere, maybe even become a symbol of peace and healing to a character. Thanks, Cynthia, for the post and for reading my little ramble. I love the Books and Such Community.

    • Crystal, I think I can speak for the community in saying that we love you, too, and that we’re praying for more healing moments for you.
      * You’ve been such a blessing to me, personally, in the kind replies you have made to my comments. You’ve brightened many a day.

      • Thanks, Andrew. It means a lot. I hadn’t realized how far of a depression I’d sunk until I watched the blue birds. It’s amazing how God can use His creation to speak truth to us and bring back a taste for life. I cannot voice how appreciative I have been in your comments over my time here. They help me to see things in a different light and to understand some of what my Grandma is enduring. It also increases my prayers for you. Know you are in my prayers and in my praises.

      • Crystal, thank you so much! You’re in our prayers, too.

    • Cynthia Ruchti says:

      Yes, Crystal, this is a special community.

  20. Mary Kay Moody says:

    Cynthia, I join many others in thanking you for the tiny amble you shared with us ~ so pretty and poetic. What if we marveled more and marketed less? Balm to a new writer’s heart. Loved the reminder that Jesus performed astonishing miracles while on his way to something else. Great reminders!

    Just today, while discussing books at (surprise!) book club, I tripped onto a super resource for a WIP ~ a collection of interviews of freed slaves done during the 1930’s taken down and printed in their own words. No filters. People and flowers, a couple of lovely creations. Thanks for brightening the day.

  21. Thank-you Cynthia for a wonderful post that encourages ambling. I love to amble because as I amble I am conversing with the Father. It is relaxing to me and can be filled with adventure, creativity and meaning, even eternal meaning. When I amble, I am always aware of people, and listening if God would have me amble up to them as I did to the young man in the writer’s nook at Panera. There is a little cubby at my Panera, and it is perfect for holing up in and writing or working in. Jesus always noticed people others ignored or walked by. This was a young black man, big and muscular with a very artsy hair style. I made a comment on how that area was perfect for working and that last year I was often in it writing a book,” Losing My Mind, Finding God’s” to pitch as a conference. He asked if I had really lost my mind and invited me to talk with him. During the next fifteen minutes, I gave him a shortened version, talked about the relational Jesus, and God’s love as expressed through Jesus and what He did for us, and prayed for him. His name was Smitty. I don’t know what God has planned for him, or what he is going through, but he appreciated my time , story and the prayer and made sure to thank me again on his way out. My prayer is that Smitty remembers what I said , and understands as I told him that God loves him, and caused me to amble up to him to share the good news of Jesus.

    You never know what God will do when you take the time to amble.