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Monday, September 12, 2011

Wherein I Talk About Flooding

If you live in or near Pennsylvania or you have been watching the news lately, you know that there is widespread flooding in my state. Although this blog is primarily a writing blog, I cannot pass over the seriousness of what some Pennsylvanians are facing right now. First we had a very rainy August. In Philadelphia it was said to be the rainiest August in history. Then we got hit with Hurricane Irene. I can't speak for the rest of the state but in Philadelphia we had at least 12 hours of sustained, heavy rain. The kind that comes down in sheets. Add that to the rainiest August on record and you've got an awful lot of flooding. Then a week later we get 3 to 4 days of moderate to heavy rain. Nonstop. It was all rain all the time over here. A few blocks from my house the Schuylkill River flooded areas of my neighborhood.

Out toward Central Pennsylvania the town I went to high school in is under water. The town I went to college in and lived for many years--also under water. It is so bad that the National Guard and FEMA are there. There is a town I worked in for many years north of there and almost all of my coworkers lived in the next town over from there. That is under water. Peoples' homes are literally floating away. FLOATING AWAY. I watch news footage and see internet photos of places I used to hang out, places where I lived and worked, places I loved and they have been destroyed by flooding. Towns and cities were evacuated last week. I still have many friends and acquaintances who live in these areas. As far as I know, everyone is accounted for and safe. I can only hope that all of their homes will be intact when the water recedes and the mess has been cleaned up. Many of them are without power now and, ironically, without water. There is a monument in Bloomsburg that marks the height of all the floods in town history—the highest one in recent memory was made in 1972. That monument was completely submerged during this recent flooding. There wasn’t even room on it for the new flood line. The old high water marks were surpassed by feet, not inches.



Although none of this affects me directly, it still hits home. These places WERE my home for many years. Even though I moved away, I’ve always had great affection for these towns and for the people I know who still live there. What I see on the news and on the internet is heartbreaking. How does any of this relate even remotely to my writing? Before all this devastation hit, I had hit a major wall with my WIP. I’m almost finished with the first draft, or at least the first stage of the first draft. In fact, I know how it ends. I just don’t know how to get from here to there. It was making me nuts. Still is a little. I hadn’t written in a week or two—I was feeling frustrated and discouraged. Majorly uninspired. But I figured I’d give myself some time, put it on the backburner and let my subconscious work through the problems. Then I’d come back to it and try to power through. And I probably would have but now all I do in my spare time is look at flood photos of the places I used to live. I’m absolutely horrified. That pesky leaking skylight that’s been confounding us for a month—I stand under it now and send up prayers of thanks. My home, my street, my neighborhood, my city are all still intact. A leaky skylight doesn’t even register as a mild annoyance compared to what people in my old towns are facing. I am grateful for that leaky skylight.

So I ask you two things: one, please send prayers or at least some good thoughts to Pennsylvanians devastated by the recent flooding and, two, what do you do when you’re stuck at some stage of a Work in Progress? All tips will be greatly appreciated!

9 comments:

  1. My heart goes out to everyone there. Having been born in Pittsburgh, most of my extended still family lives in various parts of Pennsylvania & I've been hearing stories from them, as well as yours. It is truly terrible.

    As for being stuck, well for the first time, I'm right there with you. Not only am I uninspired, I am sad to have lost my muse. You're usually the one I look to when I need inspiration. I wish I could do that for you. I do know this: though I don't have an outline or story worked out, I do know exactly what I want my first chapter to be. So I figure the best way to get motivated is to just write that out, get my juices flowing again. I'm still looking for a new muse, but I won't know who that is until I get moving again.

    Hang in there, Lisa. We'll both get through this tough time!

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  2. I sympathize. We experienced flooding here for several months. I can only imagine the snakes and other crawlies that'll be stuck in the houses once the water receeds. And those poor people who had to be relocated. I'll be sending prayers definitely. I just take a break or move to another WIP.

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  3. I think flooding would just be the worst disaster to live through. Everything gets ruined. Mold, rot, mud, and the creepy crawlies everywhere like Laila mentioned. Just awful.

    Is it bad of me to admit that stuff like this often inspires story ideas? When the tsunami hit Japan I was in shock like everyone else, but I also saw in the rubble a sort of landscape that would make an interesting story backdrop. I don't know, maybe that's what artists do. We see things and start making connections to other things, not out of disrespect but in an effort to relate and understand.

    Hope you get your mojo back soon. I've jumped on a new project and it feels good to be writing something fresh again, instead of editing and revising constantly. :)

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  4. I can absolutely sympathize all the way around. Irene was bad, but Lee was worse in a lot of ways. Thirty hours without power and an inch of water in the basement is nothing compared to what I've seen in nearby communities. It's very hard to see places you love ravaged in this way.

    As for the other, we're in the same situation. I'm still trying to just sit down and pound away at the trouble spots. The good news is I had a really good think on a forty-minute drive yesterday; the bad news is I couldn't remember it enough to get it down on paper. Guess it's not quite ready to be solved yet. Keep at it. Sit in a different chair. Use a pen and notebook. Something will shake it loose.

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  5. That's terrible, Lisa. :( Sending prayers from Ohio.

    As for the wall, you need to get enough inspiration under your feet to climb over it. Take a break. Read books that make you feel something. Watch movies that stick with you for days. Read Carrie's first chapter. Listen to new music. Read international news. In a couple of days, you won't even have to prod your brain. It'll be raring to go. :)

    ...What? I didn't slip anything out of place in there. I don't know what you're talking about. ;)

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  6. I'm passing on your award tomorrow...you know the 7X7 one..held on to it forever. :)

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  7. We're thinking about all those affected by the flooding.

    I suggest a break. Let the subconscious shake free and roll. Go for a long bike ride, run, or walk each day and just let your mind wander. Story lines sneak along as I think what the bike rider on the street is trying to get away from or why another runner keeps looking over their shoulder every three steps. Or what is really going on in that car with the tinted windows. Try in a few days and if not, do it again and try in a few more. Good luck and let us know when you're rolling again.

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  8. Sorry it took me so long to respond to these wonderful comments . . . broke my foot this week, it has provided lots of distraction.

    Prosecutor: Love those ideas--very creative. I think that's a great way to get juices flowing!

    Laila: I read it today and enjoyed it!

    Carrie: I commented on your blog--thanks!

    JeffO: I love brainstorming while I'm doing something else--like driving or some menial task that doesn't require all of my mental power. Usually that does work for me.

    L.G.: You're right, I think stories often grow out of the what-ifs of a tragedy. Fiction gives us a safe place to explore our worst fears I think.

    Nancy: I think you should just go ahead and draft your first chapter. See what comes of it!

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  9. Prayers and good thoughts for all involved. I whine about the cold winters and the chilly summers, but really I'm truly grateful for where we live. I know there are so many much less fortunate. Thanks for sharing this, Lisa. It's moved me deeply.

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