Cartography and “Ur”tree or finding the root of the story

I start today’s blog with gratitude, because gratitude is the golden brown sugar on the oatmeal of my life.  I love oatmeal and am currently being fed metaphorically and in real time with a bowl made by my roommate. Yum! Original oatmeal dusted with crusting globs and melty drizzles of organic brown sugar made by someone else is both nourishment and nurture. I am grateful today for the new permanent home, for my sons who turned out amazing in spite of me making this possible, and for the friends who do for me what I either can’t or am unwilling to do for myself. I needed breakfast badly but just couldn’t raise the energy to cook. Food is a language of love I am fluent in and am eating every delicious mouthful of my friends love for me with relish.

I am eating this oatmeal awkwardly though, with a flour scoop because we have not yet found the silverware in the unpacking. Part of me believes that we would have found them if I had just been able to maintain control, if things had been done the right (read that MY) way. If I could just do everything myself or manage to map out everyone else’s behavior (so says the OCD evil voice in my head) I would have written guides to what is where, and a concise grid of how things were to go instead of a jumble of badly packed unlabeled boxes, deep scratches in the floor and broken furniture and books (moving company issues, whole other story). I struggle with resentment wanting to rewrite my gratitude because anger is the scratch to the guilt itch that says if I had just planned, charted and organized completely enough, this move would have been easy, peasy.  The Ego believes I should have drawn a map of how the move would go for everyone, including myself, to follow and then i would be eating this oatmeal with a spoon not a flour scoop.

I do love maps.  Maps are a useful tool and cartography is a an art form that fascinates me. I wonder when I am driving long commutes if there is a place to take classes in cartography, one of the replayed fantasy lives I live while driving has my next career being a mapmaker. My children grew up in a home where the fold out maps from National Geographic were the art on our apartment walls. Both the dream and the outline of the story of my life as I wanted it to be told were layered in red and blue and green lines on a rich cream background, and late at night when it was just me and my maps and my Selectric earning the egg money I would take breaks and read the names of towns and countries I would one day visit. I have visited many of them.

My sons are grown now and all have GPS systems. I prefer maps. I would rather look up the destination and discover my way than be told where to go, and scolded when I didn’t take the fastest most direct route.  Perhaps that is why I am eating with a flour scoop. I am when all is said and done an adventurer still, as much about the journey as the destination.  Even when I write prose I begin with only the most basic of idea or outline, I splice my sapling of a tale into the root of the Great Story Tree (see James Owen’s "Search for the Red Dragon, or Charles de Lint "Newford Stories", or Stephen King "Gunslinger" if unfamiliar with this idea) and let it blossom and bear what fruit it may. 

Journeying is not the same as wandering. Poetry is my joyful wandering. Poetry and music is the journey whose purpose is smelling the flowers or rain and seeing the colors of the rocks crunching under foot, in this kind of verbal journeying every step is the destination. For prose to be effective I do need a map and a destination or I find myself wandering in ever decreasing circles until I am just chewing my tail.

So many questions on the Nanowrimo lists on the right or best way to "win" Nanowrimo.   How much preparation, how much outlining, etc. My answer is simple, whatever gets you there is the best way. If you are a GPS writer then the order the Nanowrimo bible and follow it, you will succeed. GPS directions and a GPS approach to living works; my sons are rarely lost and have certainly succeeded more quickly  than I in the real world  (I am living in my son’s first of two homes, I own none) Most of my friends live GPS lives and at times I envy them their accomplishments and acquisitions. They envy my interpretive "map only" stories. At Rincon, a young, intelligent, creative and very pretty man and I were swapping stories. I had had a bit or Pumpkin Porter which dropped my invisibility shield and loosened my tongue a bit letting a large portion of my life spill out. His comment to me was "Either you have lived the most interesting life I have ever heard, or you are a pathological lliar".

I smiled and said both, knowing the "lies" per say are the things I leave out, because no one would ever believe them.

So what then is the right way, the best way to map out a successful one month journey through writing a 50,000 word novel?  "Ur" **way.  Oh, and actually writing. All the maps or GPS’s in the world are useless if the feet aren’t moving or the wheels aren’t turning.

Oatmeal is an adventure when eaten with a flour scoop, but spoons work pretty well, too. 

And gratitude is the sweetener I prefer no matter with what instrument I am served my oatmeal.

* *If there seems to be an abundance of references to the "Imaginarium Geographica" in my blogs right now it is because I am rereading them from the beginning to the current book five. I recommend them if you are at all a book geek because they are brilliantly crafted with all the layers of classic fantasy fiction that has tapped the story tree root and grown its own forest. I do turn off TV and social networks during Nanowrimo but I find reading is an important part of Nanowrimo for my relaxation and reward when the daily word count is completed and I pick a genre that is not what I will be writing. This year it is this series and a few of the writers to whom it pays homage.