Welcome to Writerhead Wednesday, a weekly feature in which a brilliant, charming, remarkable author talks about her/his writerhead…a precious opportunity for looky-loos around the world to sneak into the creative noggins of talented writers and (ever so gently) muck about.
Because I’ve known Lynda Rutledge since I was in graduate school at Columbia College in Chicago back in the 1990s, I’m especially delighted to share her debut novel here on Writerhead Wednesday. If you haven’t read Faith Bass Darling’s Last Garage Sale yet, get your cutie-patootie to the bookstore or library.
Now, without further ado, please raise your glasses and give a cheer for Lynda’s writerhead.
1. Describe your state of writerhead (the where, the when, the how, the what, the internal, the external).
To answer, I’ll tell you of the first moment my journalistic mind tripped the light fantastic into the sometimes dangerous land of writerly lies we call fiction writing. It happened in Chicago years ago when I was just beginning to play around with creating fiction. I was a full-time freelance journalist with literary pretensions, and I had to carefully keep my two worlds—facts and fabrication—apart. And for a long time, I did just fine.
Then… My spouse and I had friends in a picturesque small town outside Chicago and we’d drive out there every few weeks. One day, we passed a homemade sign on the roadside we hadn’t seen before. I don’t recall what the sign said; I just recall my saying something like: “I wonder what’s that’s about? Maybe it’s…[insert a scenario].”
My long-suffering spouse never commented on my speculations since it was a form of entertainment for me, this weaving of riding-along “what-ifs,” and he’d heard it all before.
A few weeks later, we drove by the same sign again.
This time I said, “Hey, I wonder how that [insert scenario] is going?”
The spouse looked at me all-but-crosseyed.
“What?” I said, wondering what his problem was.
“Lynda, you made that up. You know that, right?”
I gawked for a long moment. Then I guffawed: Omigod, I had. The secret to making fiction “real” is that the writer has to believe it, and obviously that’s what I’d done to a fault; I had created the scenario so vividly in my head that I had forgotten it wasn’t real. My two worlds had collided. Now what was I going to do? I decided I’d accept it, let it happen as it would, and see where it took me. My journalist days were obviously numbered, and it was time. Now it’s the place I wander into every day, if it’s a good day. And sometimes even more so when it’s not: No longer am I cranky in stalled traffic or in long lines (at least if they’re not too long). Instead, I eavesdrop, watch, and catalog. Stand in front of me at the DMV and prepare to become grist for my little writer’s mill. Make me think creatively, delight me with your weirdness, force me to see things differently enough to weave a “what if” scenario or two, and I relax. Everything is fodder. Except for those first draft pangs, where nothing seems to want to behave and the earth seems to insist on spinning backwards, I notice that I’m happiest there.
2. What happens if someone/something interrupts writerhead? (a spouse, a lover, a barking dog, an electrical outage, a baby’s cry, a phone call, a leg cramp, a dried-up pen, a computer crash, etc.)
It’s pretty ugly. You’d think my friends (the ones I have left) and my family (the ones who still speak to me after their heads have been bitten off) would learn to leave the crazy woman alone when she has that “look,” but since that would mean I’d stay in my writer cave so much I’d not sleep, eat, or even notice the earth spinning, that’s pretty much impossible. So, of course, I stay cranky on every entry and exit. It’s always a bumpy ride.
3. Using a simile or metaphor, compare your writerhead to something.
For me, it’s an altered state, like the time I took peyote with the Navajo shaman outside of Taos…oh, wait. I made that up. Or did I?
BIO: Hopping across literary and geographic boundaries in her writing career, Lynda’s been a freelance journalist, travel writer, ghostwriter, restaurant and film reviewer, copywriter, college professor, book collaborator, and nonfiction author while living/writing/studying in Chicago, San Diego, New Orleans, Madrid, and many elsewheres, her wanderlust as strong as her writerhead. But her creative writing has always been the stuff of her biggest literary dreams. She’s won awards and residencies from the Illinois Arts Council, Writers League of Texas, Ragdale Foundation, Atlantic Center for the Arts, among others. Faith Bass Darling’s Last Garage Sale is her debut novel.