Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Look closely. One word. Toward the bottom. 
My husband's birthday is today. He turns nineteen. You think I'm kidding.

But the Hunk of Italy is a genetic freak who never seems to age. He recently went to the eye doctor for a checkup and was told him that somehow, in middle age, his eyesight is actually improving. Near-sighted in his thirties and forties, he now sees almost 20-20.

As Adrian Monk would say: It's a blessing, and a curse.

I hope the age-defying mean he'll be around a long time; but it's going to be like living with Dorian Gray.

His 19th birthday --- a High Holy Day in this house -- prompts me to share some thoughts about Spouses of Writers.

When we married, imaginary friends were already part of my life. So you could say my husband knew what he was getting into. But that's not fair, or true. Even writers don't know what they're getting into because each project comes like a fresh slice of heaven -- inspiration, enthusiasm, love -- and Hell -- failure, despair, hate.

Over the years, I've concluded that a supportive spouse is as much a gift to the writer as talent. Even when that support varies. Some spouses tolerate imaginary friends the same way they deal with meddling inlaws at Thanksgiving. Others might say that the vows about "in sickness and in health, for better or worse," doesn't mean listening to you whine about characters who won't behave.

 If that's the case, be grateful. Write in solitary confinement. God gives us our crucibles. And writers sometimes need cocoons to give birth to all the words begging from within.

Always: Be grateful.

I've had some difficult writing seasons both before and after marriage. Each challenge has taught me that wrestling agasint God's sovereignity --  protesting because I'm unsatisfied with what He's given -- only worsens the problem. In fact, ingratitude blocks the very road that all good stories must travel in order to reach the writer.

No doubt that I've been blessed with an uber-supportive spouse. He also came equipped with instant recall of every plot device in the universe. Whenever I will toss out a story idea, the response is always the same variation on a theme: "George Raft already did that in 1939. The movie was called Each Dawn I Die..." Or: "Jimmy Cagney, Sinner's Holiday, 1930. He played a tough guy who...."

This used to annoy me. Really annoy me.

Then I realized my pride was responding.

Once I stopped struggling against God's sovereign choice, I saw that my husband's instantaneous recollection of every story seen/heard/read was forcing me to get more creative with the Raleigh Harmon series.

The guy deserves a medal.

But I would contend that all Spouses of Writers deserve some kind of medal.

There's an terrible fact waiting to ambush every writer before she even begins.  And the fact is this: The world doesn't need your words.

 You might think it does. You might think the world would be immeasurably better if only your book was out there, in people's hands, filling their mind with your excellent thoughts. You can probably find a self-help book that will agree with you.

 But here in Realityville, the world already has plenty of stories. The Bible alone gives us enough drama and narrative to occupy our imaginations from birth to death -- and that book was written thousands of years ago.

This is why Spouses of Writers are so special. Each time they grant you time to write, or help you find a place to write, or listen to Your Next Great Idea, they are implicitly defying the world. By their actions, they are saying: Yes, it's all been done before, but you haven't told your story. And your story matters.

 If you're a writer with a supportive spouse, kiss them.

 Kiss them -- a lot.

 Even if they are the picture of Dorian Gray.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Some moments on earth are so wonderful, they feel like glimpses of heaven.

For me, those moments revolve around people. Sharing time with them. Enjoying their great company. Laughing.

But that beyond-the-veil feeling also comes from nature. In particular snow. I can never thank God enough for letting me grow up in Alaska.

Yesterday, the Seattle area got enough to blanket the world in white. After sledding with the kids and baking good food, I strapped on my running shoes and took off.

I'm plotting the next Raleigh Harmon mystery, and there is no better way to dream and create inside my head than running. Especially in snow. There are so few distractions -- for the eyes and the ears. Normally I just listen to steps. Cold breath. The rare bird that sings through ice.

But yesterday I decided to listen to my own soundtrack, which I'm calling Winter Wonderland. Maybe someone can add a few ideas here.

Winter Snow   Chris Tomlinson featuring Audrey Assad
It's True   Sara Groves
Peaches and Diesel   Eric Clapton
100 Years   Five for Fighting
When It's All Said and Done   Robin Mark
Carol of the Bells   George Winston
Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring   Celtic Woman (although any version seems excellent)
Forgiven and Loved    Jeremy Needham
Song for a Winter's Night   Sarah McLaughlin (Maybe even better than Gordon Lightfoot's own)    
Galveston   Glenn Campbell (What can I say? I love this song)
These Days in an Open Book   Nanci Griffith
Jesus, Jesus, Rest Your Head   George Winston
 And finally
This Guy's in Love With You   Herb Alpert and Tijuana Brass

If that last tune doesn't sense now, it will when The Stars Shine Bright comes out this summer.