Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The 1 to 99 Rule

One of my favorite Einstein quotes explains the ratio of inspiration (1%) to perspiration (99%) in creating anything.

I teach my students that if you want the good stuff to happen you have to be there ready for it to happen. That means the hard work needs to be done of applying yourself to a task, be it writing or tinkering with the universe like Einstein (well, maybe we try to do that too!) and then when the inspiration hits as it will, you’re there for it!  Conversely, there will be lovely days when the inspiration hits first and you just have to follow your muse and hang on for the ride. But then there will probably be lots of clean up to do and once more 99 percent of your time will be spent perspiring, editing the heck out of your manuscript.

Nothing works like hard work. Most people don’t want to hear this. Some authors think it will all magically appear. Yes, of course, some of it will, but the art of writing is in the rewriting until you have crafted exactly what you want to communicate and that takes the sober light of day.

Okay, I’m sure there are a few geniuses out there that have never needed to change a word to make their writing have more clarity and structure. Like Mozart and his musical genius. But for us mere mortals, it will take work to make it the best it can be. Enjoy that part of the process because it does mean you don’t have to leave your beloved story characters just yet. You get to spend a few more precious weeks letting them shine to the best of their ability. Now, I like that!

Hugs, January Bain
Here's a wee excerpt for you from my upcoming novel.

Casey glared at the stuffed moose head and it stared right back at her, its one broken antler leering.
“What are you looking at? You think this is easy? Who piles this many friggin’ rocks over their treasure anyway? Yeah, yeah, I know, someone trying to hide it.”
She took a deep breath, adjusted her white and blue striped canvas work gloves, and inserted the heavy red-tipped crowbar under the final stone slab. Air hissed out of her mouth and nose as she put her back and thighs into the task, straining to pry it loose.
She sniffed loudly, her nose dripping. The damn soot covered rocks had been in use as a fire pit. Had to give it to Hefty though—clever ruse.
Ignoring the black soot, she leaned against the huge pile of stones and wiped her nose on her hoodie sleeve before shining her flashlight on Hefty McGee’s journal. She thumbed through the tattered pages, confident that the university wouldn’t miss the dusty old thing for one weekend.
“Hmm, says here Hefty won a moose head from a saloon keeper in a card game right here in Dawson City. Furthermore, that you lost that antler in the ensuring fistfight when it turned out that the gambler was a poor loser. Know anything about that?”
Tucking the journal back into her hoodie, she reinserted the crowbar.
“Okay, here goes!” She attacked the slab with all her might. A loud squeal of protest as rock ground against rock. Ah, it moved. Just another few inches. Grunting, she pushed harder until the heavy cover slid off enough she could shine her flashlight inside the hole pickaxed into the cave floor.
The sight of a large rotted pile of leather securely wrapped and tied with a cord quickened her breath. On top weighing the package down was a small smooth rock, underneath a torn piece of brown butcher paper. She pulled it out and shone the light on it.
She read the faded hand written words aloud figuring the moose had a right to know as well, “Abandon hope all ye who steals Soapy’s Gold. It be cursed. Gave me the pox. Hefty McGee.” She chuckled despite the discomfort of the past few hours of digging in the tight damp quarters, giving the moose head a glance. “Just proves, old man, I’m in the right place.”
She thrust her arm inside the large hole in the cave floor and tugged on the heavy parcel. Damn, not enough room to lift it out. She had to get the blasted stone to move over further. She glanced back at the doorway of the cave. She only had a short while until the spring waters of the rising Yukon River would flood the low lying cave. She had taken the chance, unwilling to wait, knowing she had to be back at the university Monday morning come rain or shine. Reading week was coming to an end.
“Be nice if you could lend a hand, buster,” she said, directing her comments at the moose head. It was beginning to creep her out, staring down at her with glassy, lifeless eyes. Perhaps coming alone had not been her best option but she needed to know if all her research was going to pay off. And, just maybe, it was about to. Big time.
The pry bar slipped as the rock jerked ahead under the extreme pressure. It swung in an arc upward toward the moose head sending her pitching forward. It hit the beast a solid blow on its huge bulbous nose knocking it loose from its perch on the rock wall and right down onto her head.
The last thought she had as pain drilled into her brain was the old miner who had gone to the trouble to hide his stolen gold in the wilds of Northern Canada might have gotten it right. The curse was effective. If you were a klutz.
She woke with a start, shivering uncontrollably. Her head pounded from a possible concussion and she belatedly realized her clothes were soaking wet. She blinked hard, gingerly touching the top of her head and felt a lump as large as a goose egg under her platinum braid of hair. Damn. If she had a mirror she could check to see if her blue eyes were dilated. But at least there was no blood. She rummaged in her pocket for her cellphone and checked the time. Shit. She’s been out for more than an hour.
As her vision cleared she focused on the cave’s entrance. Waves slapping around the opening made her heart race. Swallowing hard against the shock and the pain, she struggled to pull herself to a sitting position. Her head swam with the effort and she punched the downed moose right in its over-sized moth eaten nose.
“It’s all your fault! If you weren’t already dead…” she threatened. She managed to get to her feet by holding onto the clammy moss covered stone wall. Trickles of moisture created darkened trails down the ancient walls dampening her palms.
A flash of something sliding by the doorway drew her attention. Her boat! She had left it tied to a tree on shore and with the rising waters it had somehow managed to work itself free. Headache forgotten, she splashed through the frigid water and lunged to grab hold of it before it drifted away in the current. Swaying dizzily, she managed to tug it inside the cave’s broad mouth. Thank goodness the cave floor sloped down toward the river otherwise it might have floated away while she was knocked out.
Grabbing hold of the canoe’s frayed rope; she maneuvered the sixteen foot boat closer to the treasure. Tying it securely to an outcropping of rock, she moved the offending moose head off to the side grateful the one good antler hadn’t pierced her skull. She relaunched her efforts to retrieve the booty. Thank god her flashlight was still intact and working.
“No fucking way I’m leaving here without my gold!” she muttered.
“God damn it—move won’t you!” she exclaimed in frustration, pushing as hard as she could manage. It was now or never. At least the weight training was paying off.  She put everything she had behind the effort, every muscle in her body struggling and screaming at her to give it up already.
With an ominous creak like a banshee screaming in the wind the stone lid moved off bit by bit, the pit reluctant to give up its treasure. Finally, with the external clock ticking ominously in her ear the stone lid jarred far enough off to allow her full access to what lie beneath. Tugging at the rotted string that bound the package, she thrust it out of the way and pushed her hand inside to pull apart the rotted leather.
She froze, took a deep breath, heart hammering. Was this the moment? Would all her intensive research now pay off?  Or was it an elaborate hoax set up by an ornery old miner with a wicked sense of humor?
She carefully laid back the edges of the musty old covering. Shiny yellow nuggets gleamed brightly under the spotlight of the flashlight. Nestled around the lumps of gold someone had packed old leather pouches. Ah, likely pure gold dust inside. She swallowed hard. Glanced back at the cave’s entrance.
Crap. The water was rising. Faster.
Hurriedly, she scooped up the heavy nuggets and packets, flinging them into her backpack, glancing back at the cave’s entrance every few seconds to make sure she could still free herself. Running out of room in the pack, she pulled another black carryall from the canoe’s bottom and loaded it. At the last possible second she threw in the moose head knowing she was being loopy. The damn thing must weigh twenty-five pounds, broken antler or not, but he had helped point the way like a Canadian gargoyle guarding its treasure.