by Shirley Hailstock
I'm having a Christmas party. Of course that means cleaning the house, at least the part that the guests will see. So I'm vacuuming the dining room, when I start thinking about how I love seeing the lines the vacuum cleaner makes on the carpet. And the idea for this blog comes to me. This is proof of that common question writers get: where do ideas come from -- from the great and powerful and the mundane and necessary.
So, my first favorite thing is a clean carpet. Mind you, I don't like being the cleaner. I avoided the cleaning gene while I was still in the womb. However, in order to get what I want, something I have to suck it up. Writing and reading reference: submitting a clean manuscript to your editor; providing a reader with wonderful experience devoid of typos and distractions that throw them out of the story.
The smell of fresh cut grass is another favorite. I like the smell all summer long, but that first cut of the year is like all the fragrance buds opened up and offered their scent to the wind. I don't cut my own grass. I have a service that whips through the process in record time. Yet, that first cut welcomes the change from winter to spring. Writing and reading reference: The writer has finally birthed the baby and she's holding it in your arms, ready to allow someone, a stranger who plucks it off the shelf (real or virtual) to read her story. It's going to be a new world as soon as she lets it go. Her feeling of fear increases ten-fold, until that first review comes in, until she can exhale and allow all the pent-up emotion out. For readers, a new voice just entered the world and you're there to receive it. With hope and admiration, you settle in your chair riveted to the pages, waiting for the end, for your ahhh moment as you reach the last page. That's the first smell of cut grass.
The heat on my face when opening an oven. It's a flash of heat, but it's dripping with anticipation. There's something good in there. I can feel the heat of it. At the first snow, I love to make cinnamon rolls. They remind me of home when I was a little girl. We'd make them from scratch, eagerly waiting for them to finish cooking so we could open that oven door. This brings me to a complementary favorite -- sticky hands. We couldn't wait for the cinnamon rolls to cool down, so we'd ice and eat them, still hot from the oven, as the icing dripped down the corners of her mouths and onto our hands -- ala sticky hands. Writing and reading reference: It's a favorite book. All writers have one. Most won't tell you which one. We don't want you to think there is a best because the writer's favorite may not be the reader's favorite. What sticks to your hands may not stick to mine. But something will stick. And you won't be able to put the book down.
I love people who smile. I find that smiling makes the day better. It begins that way and continues. This is not to say that life doesn't happen, that disappointments don't come, sometimes in droves, but putting on that happy face can make it feel a lot less irritating. Long ago, I read something (probably in science class) about it taking more facial muscles to frown than to smile. I was skinny then and thought smiling would be better. I still think that and I also know that frowning uses more energy, but not enough to make you lose weight -- so smile. You'll feel better. Writing and reading reference: Books make you laugh and cry. They touch your emotions and introduce you to fictional family and friends. They are people you can laugh with and most often, they make you smile. You may not know it, but they do the authors and readers have the same reaction. Sometimes we're reluctant to let them go. Readers want another story with their new-found friends. Writers have new ideas, new directions to travel with the people they've brought to life. Come on people, let's all get together for a group photo. Say SMILE.
I also include chocolate among my favorites (only about a dozen people in the world don't). However, I'm a chocolate snob, a cheap snob if that's a consolation. I'm a Hershey girl. I like milk chocolate. I don't favor expensive chocolates. When I was in San Francisco, a friend walked me around for an hour trying to find a very famous chocolate store, Ghirardelli. I'd never heard of them. (I can hear you gasping.) I tried several different samples they had in the store, didn't like any of them. I've tried Cadbury Chocolate, Dove Chocolate, Whitman Samplers, Russell Stovers, even Godiva Chocolate (which always reminds me of a naked lady on a horse), and none of them appealed to me as much as a Hershey bar. There are other favorites in the chocolate category that I adore; chocolate cake with chocolate icing, chocolate mousse, hot chocolate, chocolate milk, the list goes on. Writing and reading reference: different books appeal to different people. Some like historical, some small town contemporaries, some Navy Seals, others FBI thrillers, there's something out there for everyone's taste.
I could go on listing my favorite things, but Julie has come in and wagged her finger with the enough is enough gesture. So, let's leave it with a favorite wine, a fireplace with a roaring fire, and good friends.
What are some of your favorite things?
As always, keep reading...