I used to wonder how a semi-pro writer thought.
I used to wonder what a semi-pro anything was.
A semi-professional resides in that limbolic orbit where he isn’t yet known well enough, and hasn’t yet gotten connected so as to be paid like a pro but could – perhaps even should – be.
So therefore, the question: how does a semi-pro writer think? Almost all the time. Now, hang with me, here. Work with me.
Professional writers are thinking all the time. They carry all sorts of stuff upon which to write. Those not digitally-deficient record notes on this or that device. Either way, the pros are always thinking thoughts, then noting their thoughts about the thoughts they’d been thinking.
Fat thoughts, skinny thoughts, thoughts that rhyme on talks, tough thoughts, sissy thoughts —-
How, you may ask, does a pro writer always think all the time? Inquiring semi-pros want to know. It’s simply not possible to be constantly thinking. As in all the time. Right?
I surreptitiously and totally by chance tripped over the answer while I was feigning thinking a thought.
Poseur? Certainly not; I was on a case. A mission. We semi-pros make up for our almost-always thinking by following up with fervor the thinks we do think.
We are also adroit at obfuscation.
How, then? Answer: reciprocal thinking. If your brain’s been steadily on a heading of 240 degrees for 4 days and 13 hours and you’re frankly frazzled, turn and think the opposite direction.
See what’s interesting and nonfrazzling out 060-degrees way.
As a boy, I looked forward each summer vacation with my parents. It was always exciting to escape the dusty midsummer heat and be heading up into the eastern Oregon mountains to camp and fish. We had a sky-blue ’50 Chevy pickup with side slats to build up the sides of the bed. Daddy’d found the bottom of an old car seat, and my kid’s heart started doing paradiddles when I’d see him pull that out, dust it off, and butt it up against the pickup cab, facing backwards. I always made sure I had my sturdy belt in my blue jeans and my most comfortablest red-checked flannel shirt with the sleeves rolled up. One doesn’t go mountaining in city duds.
And my current favorite knife. Long before anybody knew Leroy Jethro Gibbs, I’d always been carrying a good knife. Once I had the important woods stuff, I’d hop up into the pickup bed, choose a side, and be ready to go. I forgot one time and sat in the middle. I didn’t do that again. Something about seeing a brown-haired head bouncing up and down in the rearview mirror. I think Mother got a little tired of bringing me sandwiches, though. Yeah–I was eager.
That grey fabric seat was my throne as we entered the cool, shady enchanted forest of ponderosa pine, tamarack, grand fir and western juniper, all bending back and forth, whispering in hushed tones as if in a medical clinic waiting room, gossiping about the visitors in the old blue pickup with Umatilla County plates. I’d bounce around on that seat until we finally pulled into Battle Mountain State Park, and find an open outdoor grilling pit. There, we’d prepare a small, fragrant pine fire and roast our hotdogs for lunch before putting the fire out and heading on up towards John Day and Canyon City to find one of ‘our’ spots.
“Okay, what does this have to do with—-“
SH! What just happened is that a writer has drawn you into his story without you knowing it. You’ve been walking along with me in your comfortable, shiny-pocketed jeans and wearing your fav faded flannel shirt, ‘sploring along the myriad shadowed mountain trails and paths, listening with one ear to the chuckling-cold mountain stream where tonight’s dinner of fresh-caught, pan-fried mountain trout lives. You’ve been smelling the marvelous tang of evergreen campfires, and listening to the sharp, biting echoes of someone’s axe restocking the woodpile.
Here’s where the writer’s thought and our little story coalesce: things always look different walking back the direction you just came from. If thinking in one direction becomes tedious, turn around and think in the other. Daddy, woodsman that he was, always told me, “Every so often, turn around and look back along the trail so you’ll know what the way back looks like. Also in case something’s tracking you.” I didn’t much appreciate his sly grin that always accompanied that tracking bit.
I read somewhere that good writers never run out of material.
Good writers can be seen, often as not, sitting and staring off into Middle Space. It’s why we carry little spiral-bound notepads around. It is an impossibility to keep up with all the fleeting, swooping ideas that suddenly, raucously appear like bluejays, and then just as quickly fade back into the thoughtosphere.
I read somewhere that good writers never run out of material. Whoever wrote that was understating it. Good writers sometimes suffer thinkbys from gangs of ideas, none of which are much for waiting on the others.
The trick is choosing which of the impertinent ideas one wishes to pursue.
Then it’s all over but the writin’.
© D. Dean Boone, June 2017