Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Chipmunk and the Writer

Sandra Parshall

Sometimes I feel a lot like a chipmunk.

No physical resemblance, of course – I’m nowhere near that cute. But while photographing the chipmunks in our yard (great way to avoid writing), I’ve noticed some behavioral similarities.

We both spend much of our time cut off from the rest of the world, emerging periodically to blink at the sun and remind ourselves that there is an existence beyond our burrows. While the life’s work of a chipmunk is foraging for food to stock its larder and mine is foraging for words and thoughts to fill my books, we take much the same approach.

We both have to be selective. We can’t grab whatever happens to come along. We must examine all possibilities and choose something that will be worth our effort, something that will last. We’re both perfectionists.

Watching a chipmunk figure out what to do with a peanut I’ve offered him brings a jolt of self-recognition that makes me smile and groan at the same time. My “peanut” may be a sentence, a paragraph, a bit of backstory, a description, but the same trial-and-error method applies.

It has to go in here somewhere, but where will it fit best?

Ah ha. Right here.

Or maybe not...

I’ll see if it works better over here.

Nope. Back to the first spot. But does it really feel right there?

Oh, heck. It’s time to move on!

For the chipmunk, there’s always another peanut. For me, there’s always another rewrite.
NOTE: To leave a comment, check the COMMENT tab, not the little envelope!


Anonymous said...

Nice observations and wonderful pictures. Thinking of them will keep me going next time I get stuck.

Sandy Cody

Lorna Barrett said...

Fantastic pictures, Sandy. You said you were having trouble with the camera back at Malice, but I think you've really mastered it now. Very impressive! (And cute, too!)

Sandra Parshall said...

My DSLR is my favorite toy, Lorna. And chipmunks are great models. I hope to get some good shots of humans at Bouchercon. :-)

Anonymous said...

Great story, Sandra. Nice pictures, too!

Theresa de Valence

Jan Brogan said...

Hi Sandra,
The chipmunks are adorable. But frankly, I don' t think I'm as selective as they are. I'd take the peanut and bring it back to my burrow (is that the correct term for chipmunk house?) There'd be a lot of junk piling up (first draft) until I cleaned it all out after winter.(second draft) Maybe there's a messier animal that applies to me?

But what terrific photography and what creative analogy! I'll never look at the chipmunks in my yard the same way again!

Julia Buckley said...


I am a chipmunk. But we don't have them here in Chicago--only squirrels. I wish we did, becasue I think the chippies are far cuter.

Sandra Parshall said...

Jan, maybe you're more of a magpie. :-)

Anonymous said...

Did it work? Patg

Meredith Cole said...

Very cute! I wish we had chipmunks in Brooklyn. The mean squirrel that digs through my flower boxes just doesn't inspire any great analogies. Hope your writing is going better than his chewing :)

Sandra Parshall said...

Squirrels have a persistence and inventiveness that any writer would envy. They're very smart, they can figure out a way around any obstacle, and they never, ever give up. If they were writers, they'd all be on the bestseller list.

Kaye said...

Sandy, your pictures are the cutest! Thanks for the diversion. You've inspired me to go try out some more peanuts.
-Kaye George