Today I needed encouragement. Maybe you do too.
Found this sketch today by one of my favourite author/illustrators, Chris Riddell:It isn’t quite “World Book Day” until April 23, but here and now we’ll celebrate book shop day by exploring these images of independent book stores. After all, in the midst of the Canadian Prairies in Freezin’ February what better activity than to curl up somewhere warm cosy and read?
Ambedo: ‘A kind of melancholic trance in which you become completely absorbed in vivid sensory details—raindrops skittering down a window, tall trees leaning in the wind, clouds of cream swirling in your coffee—which leads to a dawning awareness of the haunting fragility of life.’
Then, looking it up, I discovered the real meaning of ambedo is to gnaw or nibble.
But the fanciful meaning engaged my mental gears.
Repetitions of sensory encounters can leave impressions that last years. We forget about them and suddenly there they are again, comfortable or frightful. I won’t dwell on the latter, but I am reminded of certain things.
When one is young, house noises can be large and scary. But we soon forget they are there and we grow up, move away, and come home only for visits, perhaps.
We lie in our old bed, the house is quiet, we hear the thunk the fridge makes when it turns off and on. There’s a lamppost outside that throws light through the crack in the blinds and creates the warm glowing reflection on the portrait of the grandparents on the wall. Someone left the bathroom fan on, which hums softly, with the faintest of squeaks every 8th rotation. And we fall asleep easily with the sensation of being swaddled by the familiarity and security of the subconscious memories.
The day my husband proposed to me he was wearing his leather jacket. Smells are high impact sensory triggers. Each spring and fall when he pulled out his leather jacket and wore it, guess what memories, thoughts and feelings went through my head? Just a smell, and I was pulled out of place and time to somewhere else.I finally have some mature peonies growing in my garden, and what do I feel when I cup one of those puffy big blooms in my hands? I am 7 years old again, in my Oma’s garden, and she is creating in me an awareness of the beauty and variety of flowers and birds that I’d never realized before. Flowers were no longer just flowers. They were cosmos, and marigolds, and delphiniums–oh my! And I draw a deep breath of the sweet fragrance of my peony and remember the wonder of those days.
And what is it with rain? We don’t get too much around here, so maybe that’s why I can still enjoy it. But something I have not yet figured out is why I get the urge, in a hot summer storm or downpour, to dash out barefoot and dance in it? Is it something about being washed clean, (as if I never take a shower? :) ) More likely, I just want to be a part of the wildness, the energetic charged ions in the air. Free from all restraints. And I remember learning the beauty of a thunderstorm from my mother, watching from our covered porch every flash in the sky.
Sights without attached memories can influence and absorb us. Why do we like to skip stones on a still lake, watching the ripples? Or walk through woods with sounds and smells so different to what most of us know in the cities? Why do we like our chosen coffee or tea? Is it the taste, our morning ritual, or the ambience they wrap our souls in?
It’s cause and effect.
Take note all my writer readers–sensory perceptions and their influences on your characters and story can help with fleshing it all out and creating mood.
“Ambedo” does exist, although not by that name. What are some of your “ambedo” moments?
A year ago I submitted my baby–my first manuscript– to a group of fellow writers. We were doing a thorough critique for each other to pinpoint any issues before a hopeful final revision each.
One has her book published now. One has a contract. One never got as far as finishing her book for submitting, but she didn’t seem to bothered by it. And so on.
These are writers I hold in high regard. They know their stuff. We’ve learned together over the last few years with dedicated hard work. And when I got my ‘baby’ back, I had mostly very positive reviews and pointers on things to work on that were valid and hit my weak spots.
But one, just one, had some things to say that hit me in the gut. Why? She’s a fantastic writer and I think that’s why, this one comment of hers threw me for the loop de loop de loop of writers’ roller coasters.
A year. It has taken me a year and I’m still not past it. Yes, even for a writer, I’ve always been overly sensitive. Yes she was bashing my baby. Yes it hurt. All a day in the life of a writer.
Well honestly, I had had my doubts about that aspect of the story too. Was she right?
If so, and this is really what has held me back, the question was how else could I possibly handle that angle of the story? It had to be told. But how?
Several times throughout the year I picked up that writers block and tried to hurl it out the window. Opened my manuscript. Scribbled this and scribbled that. Hit undo, hit redo. Threw it across the room, virtually, of course. Computers are too pricey for such dramatics.
Got no where. Always that self-doubting and second guessing. Were those parts of it really boring and uninteresting? Her words, not mine. Or were they?
I read up encouraging articles because I know this happens to writers. a lot. And I forced myself to get my fingers out of the mud they were stirring. Enough.
Today I pulled up my manuscript. I set up the document in Scrivener so I can write afresh right beside the old draft. I’m just gonna do this and I’m gonna do this for me. If no one else ever reads my baby, I’m gonna raise it up to make me proud and whatever happens happens. No more but-what-if scenarios. Back to the world of Fair Itch Prep. Everyone else can go hang!