Weirdo GooseWe Geeks come from all sorts of weird places. Walking around Little Five Points today in Atlanta, I was struck by the beautiful oddities around me, reveling in the weirdness that seems to ebb from every stoop. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t amazed by strange objects, stores, and people. And this works, because a writer I have a habit of watching people and making up adventures about them.

The odd places attraction comes from my childhood. My godparents used to bring me to Northampton, MA and I’d get to visit the most eccentric stores. The best, of course, was Faces. Faces, for anyone who’s ever been to Noho or Smith College, is definitely a Pioneer Valley landmark. Back when I first visited, it was one floor, and more than anything, it had toys–toys so lovely and fantastic, so colorful and funky, so beautiful and eclectic, that I never wanted to leave. There were magnets and doohickeys, sandscapes, and well, to save the trouble of description: ThinkGeek has a great page with many of these objects of which I speak.

I’ve always been more crafty than makey, but I realized as I was going through chapter two, and thinking about Professor, that much of her character comes from my love of odd toys. Half of what I found today and wanted to take home were odd toys, strange dolls, odd tinkerings. But I exercised restraint. (And holy crap did I ever fall in love with Bungalow360 Bags… I was so close to buying one, but could hear my husband complaining about the purses I already have and… darn, darn, darn).

Anyway, what I’m trying to say in this late night post is that oddity, eccentricity, and the writing process really do go hand in hand. It’s no surprise that the steampunk movement is so complex, so broad, and so unbelievably artistic… We tinkerers (whether in a literal or literary sense) are really part raven, drawn to the stunning, the strange, and the shiny.

(Note: I did not get the Bungalow360 bag, but I did score some great perfume, some skull and crossbones hair clips–oh so cool–and a great shade of lipstick; I said restraint, not complete denial.)

ReginIt occurs to me that during yesterday’s very early morning post (this was before I even started work, people!) I missed out on a really fantastic comparison.

How could this be? Me, the writer? Missing a simile!?

Well, I should say, duh.

Yesterday during my Runes class (yes, I take a class on ancient Runes… and yes, that is super awesome) and we were talking about Regin and Sigurd, and how the sword Regin smithed was indeed the best EVAR, but it also took him three times to get it perfect (and good enough to slay a dragon, no less!).

So I realized, then, that gosh–the parallels in writing a novel and smithing are incredible. Yes, I’ve written novels before. And yes, they’re far from perfect. They would indeed “shatter” if used. But taking the time to edit, that’s like tempering the metal, refining it, making sure that it holds up.

And yes, it’s a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. It’s physically and mentally exhausting. But in the end, the final product will be that much more durable, because I took the time to do it.

Sure, some people can learn a craft and do it flawlessly each time. But most of us mortals have to work really damn hard to get it right. Because if you care at all about your work–whether it’s swordsmithing, portrait painting, novel writing, or invention tinkering–you have to be willing to make it better. You have to be able to say, “I wrote this, but it’s okay if I delete it, because it’s not good enough.”

I suppose in a way, I have my own characters to thank for this insight, as obvious as it might have been. Brick and Cora appeared to me in a flash of clarity almost a year ago to the date, their faces as vivid as if I’d seen them across the room. And since then, they’ve taken me on quite a surprising journey. I’ve learned more writing The Aldersgate than any other work to date, and not just about the story, either. Working on The Aldersgate has given me new insight into myself, my soul, my work; I feel like I know myself better having gone through the process.

So maybe it’s not just the sword that gets tempered, but the smith, too.