I have a writing board by my computer. At least, that's what I call it. You know, those easel thingees you used to prop up letters or information or notes, while you're writing. When I finish a writing project, I generally deep six the chapters outlines, etc., that have gathered there, and clear the decks for the next book. What this does it get me down to the metal surface of the writing board, where for years I have affixed various thoughts that either appealed to my twisted sense of humor or - hopefully - a more tender side.
On the funny ones, I added this little poem from the Wall Street Journal when my kids were the age where this made total sense:
If children moved away at twelve,
We'd wring our hands and grieve;
Thus God provided teenage years
To make us glad they leave.
(It's attributed to Steve Cornett, who must've had a doozey of a week with his teens)
This bit of fluff came from the Orlando Sentinel:
What do you know about Holland? The British wit Alan Coren wrote this about it: "Apart from cheese and tulips, the main product of the country is advocaat, a drink made from lawyers." That still makes me chuckle.
One of my favorite authors was Ellis Peters, who wrote the wonderful Brother Cadfael series. This bit of wisdom is from One Corpse Too Many, where the good monk teams up for the first time with under sheriff Hugh Beringar, creating one of crime fiction's best duos:
"You did the work that fell to you, and did it well. God disposes all. From the highest to the lowest extreme of a man's scope, wherever justice and retribution can reach him, so can grace."
The historian in me that never lurks too far below the surface always appreciates this, because it is monumentally true of people and times. It's from the introduction to The Age of Napoleon, which was co-authored by Will and Ariel Durant, surely one of history's most interesting - and possibly unlikely - couples:
"All in all, in life and in history, we have found so many good men and women that we have quite lost faith in the wickedness of mankind."
And this, by a wise man, indeed, Bishop Gregory of Tours, many, many years ago, from his History of the Franks:
"A great many things keep happening, some of them good, some of them bad."
As I embark on chapter five of The Hesitant Heart, a novel set at Fort Laramie in 1876, I am always in agreement with this wisdom from Galsworthy: "Idealism increases in direct proportion to one's distance from the problem." I've done many years of research on the Indian Wars, and let me assure you, this was a common complaint on the frontier, when soldiers flinched as folks sitting comfortably back home were in huge sympathy with the Indians on the plains. (Now don't think of me as hard-hearted. I'm a total realist, and I look at the Indian Wars from the 19th century POV. The US Army acted as an agent of the federal government, nothing more.)
This comment from the great Ray Bradbury is something I am always mindful of, when I write. I hope all writers are:
"I held the bird in my hands, one hand cupped over the other. I could not feel the weight of the bird and would not have known it was there or even alive except I could feel its heart beating. So it is with a good story or poem. You should feel the heartbeat, without feeling the weight of what you are reading."
To conclude on a lighthearted note: "Don't put off 'til tomorrow what you can do today. That way, if you liked it, you can do it again tomorrow."
Now to fill up the writing board with new chapter outlines... It's all good.