Don’t Watch Me Write
By Anne Hawkinson
Writing, from my perspective, is a solitary endeavor that takes place within the confines of my office. I have two windows that I can stare out of when I’m trying to figure something out or if I’m lost and need to clear my brain for a bit. I hope no one’s looking in.
If they did, they might think I’m having seizures, am emotionally unbalanced, or I’ve gone completely off the deep end, since I’m having an animated conversation with an empty room. (Does my cat Viggo count?)
I may not be the only one who does this, but I’m confessing here and now that I do it, and often. I wave my arms wildly; squint as I look over my shoulder, whine, moan, and cry. If one of the characters in my story is doing it, I need to know what it feels like. Sometimes it makes sense, sometimes it doesn’t. If I try it out, I have a better sense of what is happening, what the character might be feeling, and what they’re reaction should be.
I pinch myself (can’t pinch the cat), stamp my feet, and speak in a hiss. I rub my hands together against imagined cold, feel my throat tighten at the mention of a lost loved one, and have one more piece of chocolate so I know how good it tastes when Maggie and Laura share some.
There are some things I can’t do (like run from a bull moose in rut), so I have to rely on what knowledge I have of them (I’ve actually been 20 feet from one in the wild), how I’ve seen them behave, and what nature shows can teach me. Some might think them clumsy, ugly, and dull-witted. For whatever reason, they have captured a special place in my heart. I love how they look, respect their size and temperament, and because my middle-grade novel takes place in northern Minnesota, am bound and determined to give them a significant role in the story.
What I can do is try to convey the fear and terror Maggie, Laura, and Raza feel when one is hot on their heels. Maggie and Laura live in Minnesota, so they’re familiar with moose, but Raza is from California. He doesn’t have a clue. Laura’s clearly a “girly-girl,” so she might as well be from Mars. It’s up to Maggie to figure something out.
So if you see me running up and down the street in front of my house, arms flailing, and a panicked look on my face, I haven’t lost my mind. I’m just outrunning a moose.