Deb Eleanor’s Big Spoon

Eleanor BrownWhen I give presentations, I talk about the act of writing a novel as analogous to dragging a magnet across a table full of paper clips. (Why you would want to do such a thing, I don’t know, but just go with it.) By the time you’re done, you’ve got a bunch of paper clips stuck to your magnet, and that’s your novel.

For The Weird Sisters, one of the paper clips was birth order. Another was what it means to be an adult. And breast cancer. And family communication. And the power of our names. And Shakespeare.

You get the idea.

I wish I had a great story about being struck by lightning with an idea for any of my novels, but that never seems to happen to me. I just plod away, collecting paper clips, until I have enough to make a novel. Without enough paper clips, your novel will suffer from a saggy middle, or be too dull to even bother finishing. Too many paper clips, and you’ll just end up confusing people.

So I can’t say I had a big idea.

But I do have something even better. We’re working on cleaning out my parents’ house, and my mother and I were going through some family silver when we came across my very favorite piece of all. A very, very big spoon.

silver spoon

That is next to a normal-sized spoon, just to give you some perspective. We offered the other silver pieces to my cousins and sisters, but that spoon was ALL MINE.

Are you ever struck by a big idea, or do ideas tend to come together, like paper clips sticking to a magnet?*

*Alternately, you can just comment and tell me how awesome my big spoon is. Because it is really, really awesome.

27 Replies to “Deb Eleanor’s Big Spoon”

  1. I’m working on one right now! It’s as big as the giant wooden spoon and fork my Mom had on the wall in the 1970s. Alas, it’s teak, and I’m worried it won’t pick anything! That IS a whopper of a spoon. From a ship perhaps? I have in my cutlery drawer, the tiny silver fork that was always at my Grandmother’s house. She was quite poor, she had no silver, except for this darling fork we fought over as kids. When she died my Mom gave it to me. My sister got the copper molds that had hung over her over in her tiny apartment. Tiny ideas can be inspiring too – but the big ones FEEL GOOD.

    1. You can be the world’s first inventor of a teak magnet. If anyone can do it, you can!

      Sadly, I think the spoon has unsexy origins as a turkey-stuffing-remover, but maybe I will pretend it did come from a ship. A PIRATE ship.

      I don’t think I ever get big ideas. I feel sad now.

  2. My big ideas–or the overarching concepts of my novels–often come in dreams. But it takes weeks for the dream to formulate itself into something definite. Little ideas come in odd ways. A line of dialogue someone unknowingly feeds me, another dream, a news broadcast, or even something else I read. If I’m stuck, my solution is to sleep on it. My subconscious works through it while I’m sleeping, and I usually wake up with the solution.

    1. Your subconscious is clearly much more organized than mine. The other night I dreamed of Britney Spears giving me advice about which magazines to buy.

      In all seriousness, I work very similarly. A story in a magazine here, a wisp of a memory there, a conversation with a friend here – it all accumulates into something.

  3. My ideas come in little snippets, so I suppose they’re paper clips. I have a hard time finding the right magnet to bring them all together.
    And that is indeed a kick-ass spoon. My mind quickly went to wondering how much ice cream you could fit on that without needing a bowl. Yum.

    1. I’m so glad I’m not alone. And yes, the magnet is the big issue for me, too. Well, one of them. Sometimes the issue is wondering how all those paper clips got scattered across my table.

      I think you could fit a LOT of ice cream on that spoon, but you’d never be able to eat it all without getting it all over your face. And what a waste that would be!

  4. I LOVE that spoon! We inherited most of hubs’s grandparents’ silver, but none of the serving spoons is anywhere near as big as yours (sadly).

    And your paperclip analogy is awesome, too. I tend to have a central idea (not always big), which I suppose could be the magnet, and then the paperclip ideas attach themselves as I write. So the whole magnet/paperclip thing works well for me. 🙂

    1. I am inspiring spoon envy! Woohoo!

      I like the idea of the magnet as the central idea. I don’t think I’m organized enough to have a central idea until late in the book, so maybe I just have magic paperclips until then.

      Which will be, coincidentally, the name of my new band. Magic Paperclips.

  5. That is a great spoon. While my ideas aren’t for novels, but still for blog posts for now, they do come in snippets. Sometimes they go together to form a post, sometimes they hang around as unfinished drafts. I hadn’t thought about using a magnet to pull them all together. I’ll have to give that a try.

    1. You all are making me think differently about that magnet! I’d always just thought of it as a tool to pull all the paperclips together, but maybe it’s a thing on its own.

      And yes, I think it works for any kind of writing (and probably any creative project) – big or small!

  6. Your spoon is fantastic! And it’s even better for the history behind it…. Do you think you’ll actually use it or is more for display? It reminds me of a store in NYC where everyday items like pens, rubber bands, spoons even! are 3 or 4 times there normal size! My favorite was always the giant legal pad, so inviting as well as intimidating!

    I love your paper clip analogy. My ideas tend to be smaller and work best when they latch on to other ideas. Even when I have a big idea, it eventually gets whittled down (or broken down!) to something smaller at which point it fits in better with other ideas along the same lines…and then I scoop them all up with ahuge spoon and throw them in the trash! LOL (joking…I guess!)

    1. Sadly, the spoon is currently in a drawer. I need to figure out a display solution for silver where it doesn’t tarnish. My mother points out aptly that using a lot of silver is a relic from a time when people had “help.”

      I’m so glad we’re not alone – we’re just going along and making our paper clip necklaces, big ideas be darned! We have fabulous jewelry! (And I never throw out paper clips – keep them for other projects!)

    1. I’m coming to realize that, but I swear I’d never thought of it that way! Maybe because my magnet…er…my big idea doesn’t become clear to me until late in the process. I’m disorganized like that.

      AWESOME SPOON! You can borrow it if you like.

  7. Screw ideas… THAT’S AN AWESOME SPOON!!!!

    I think you might need a whole giant cutlery set.

    I’m seeing a picture book here. Or a middle grades fantasy about your relatives in Giantland. We’ll collaborate. It’ll be huge.

    Hey — look what I just did — a BIG IDEA!


    1. A BIG idea about my BIG spoon! Perfect! I would be a terrible children’s book writer, but I will loan you my spoon for inspiration.

  8. Elise beat me to it – I was thinking it could’ve been a giant’s spoon, too…what’s that game where you see how long you can hang a spoon on your nose? That would have to be a mighty big nose…

    Eleanor, how do you know which paper clips to keep and which to discard? Or do you just keep them all and link them into a long chain that becomes your novel?

    1. I am having the best time picturing people trying to hang that spoon off their noses.

      Some of the paper clips just don’t fit when I really think about them – they conflict with something I want to include more, or I like them too much to let them be something small, so I keep them for a future project. Some of them fall away or increase in importance as I write, so I just have to be flexible and allow for that change to happen as I go. Others land on the cutting room floor. I’d say there’s some initial work to determine what’s going to work or not, and the rest just falls into place as I go. Not very helpful, right?

  9. I love your analogy about the paperclips! I’ve always felt a little left out when other authors talk about their approach to novel writing and so often it revolves around a BIG IDEA. My method sounds a lot more like yours, so I’m relieved to know I’m not the only one.

    And I looooooooooove that spoon. I want one!


    1. You are my paperclip sister. I’ve also been relieved to learn today that I’m not the only one who doesn’t seem to get lightning bolt BIG IDEAS.

      You can borrow my spoon any time. And I mean that in the dirtiest way possible.

  10. hey–is that yo mama’s spoon or are you just happy to see me… ;-). I am fantasizing the many uses for that silver spoon (shove it in a pretentious persons mouth–i.e. one born with a silver spoon in his mouth?!). Though I am silver polish-averse so would likely pass it on to someone who realllly wants to polish…BTW thanks for sending on a book for my friend’s fundraiser–greatly appreciate your thoughtfulness!

    1. Hey Jenny! Glad it got there – I was on the road for quite a while and am relieved it made it in time.

      I just said to someone else in a comment that using lots of silver was for a time when people had help who could do all the darn silver polishing for them. But that spoon was just too good to pass up. Let me know if you need me to stick it in anyone’s mouth. I’m there for you, sister.

  11. Oh my goodness, I love this! Both the spoon (which is probably worth a fortune, no?) and the paper clip analogy. This is SO my style too. It drives my husband bonkers though (he’s always trying to get me to outline!) xoxo

    1. I don’t know about the value of the spoon, other than for amusement, but I have been relieved to find that I’m not the only paperclipper!

Comments are closed.