Decompressing After The Deadline by Johanna Harness

18 Jan

When I’m pushing toward a deadline, I tend to focus only on the things that must be done.  Instead of starting my writing day at 5AM, I start at 4AM.  I put sticky notes on my computer monitor at the beginning of each day, so I don’t forget my schedule. I know exactly what the kids need to accomplish with their homeschooling and we focus on those things in very concentrated doses. When I read at night, I generally read something that gives me insight into my story or characters (usually it’s poetry).

After the deadline, my mind is awash with ideas and inspirations and interests.

Today I’m starting a 3-2-1 meme to share my recent influences:  3 books, 2 day trips, 1 album.


The Distant Shore by Mariam Kobras (2012).  I know Mariam Kobras from Twitter.  She’s a funny, smart, wise-cracking woman with an answer for everything.  She lives in Germany and is already wide awake while I’m pouring my first cup of coffee and settling into 5AM writing. When I opened her book, I was so surprised at her beautiful, flowing lines.  It was like watching someone goof around on stage just before breaking into an intricate, gorgeous dance.  This is a delicious book, one that demands tea or chocolate and hours to savor the words and thoughts of her characters.

The Writer’s Workout by Christina Katz (2011). I took a workshop from Christina at Willamette Writer’s Conference. In one exercise, she gave us a worksheet and asked us to take stock of our accomplishments.  She proceeded to read through a long list of possible things we’d already achieved, asking us to jot down the ones that applied to us.  It was painful. Most of us sat there staring, waiting for even a single thing to put in any of our columns. Then Christina turned things around on us.  Think you’re not empowered on your writing path?  Start developing these competencies.  Start small.  Build your career.  This is what I love about Christina.  The Writer’s Workout provides a full year of tough-love advice. This is not one of those namby-pamby inspirational books that finds new ways to say, “don’t give up” on every page.  This is the real thing.

All Wounds by Dina James (2011).  I know Dina on twitter, participated in a contest, and won a copy of The Eternal Kiss: 13 Vampire Tales of Blood and Desire (2009).  Alongside stories by Libba Bray, Holly Black, Cassandra Clare, Lili St. Crow, is a story by Dina entitled, “All Wounds.”  It’s fantastic, but cried out for a novel-length story.  Thankfully, a publisher thought so too.  Dina’s young adult lead, Rebecca, is a healer of werewolves, vampires, demons, ghosts, goblins, and other ethereal beings.  A war is brewing among these forces just as Rebecca is coming into her full power.  Dina creates a fully-realized world around a high-concept idea.  I loved it.


Celebration Park. This archeological park is one of my favorite nearby locations.  Over 17,000 years ago, Lake Bonneville flooded, leaving massive boulders throughout this Snake River canyon. Around 10,000 years ago, petroglyphs were pounded into those rocks. I like to go there, find a big warm rock, and soak up the atmosphere. On one side are deeply-chiseled cliffs and on the other the beautiful Snake River. The park is home to Guffey Bridge, an 1897 railroad crossing constructed to reach the rich silver mines in the Owyhee Mountains. After being abandoned in 1947, it survived a rocky path to preservation. Today there is a walking path across the river and we always take time to enjoy the view. As if that’s not enough, Celebration Park lies on the western edge of The Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area, so birdwatching on the drive out and back is always great.  “Day Trip: Celebration Park” contains more pictures from our outing.

Idaho City. George Grimes discovered gold in the Boise Basin in 1862.  In 1863-64, Idaho City was the most-populated city in the Pacific Northwest.  At current prices, almost a billion dollars worth of gold came out of the basin.  Today Idaho City is on The National Register of Historic Places and contains more than 22 intact historic buildings.  We took advantage of mild winter weather to enjoy the sites during the off-season, but we’ll need to go back in the summer when the cemetery road isn’t a sheet of ice.  “Day Trip: Idaho City” contains more pictures from our adventure.


An Appointment with Mr. Yeats by The Waterboys (2011).  When I listen to Mike Scott, I hear whispers of the same inspiration I feel when I write. I can’t imagine anyone setting Yeats’ poetry to music any better than this.  Some people talk about music that inspires dancing, but I always look for music that inspires writing.  This is that album for me. I begin listening to “The Hosting of The Shee,” close my eyes, and I’m in another world. I listen to “Before The World Was Made” and I swear my neurons fire differently.  I love this album. My only regret and frustration?  The album isn’t out in the US yet, so I’ve been listening on Grooveshark.  Please sir, I would like to buy.

What are your influences lately?  If you do a 3-2-1 list of your own (any categories), I’d love to hear about it.


Posted by on January 18, 2012 in 3-2-1, books, day trips, Idaho, music


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

15 responses to “Decompressing After The Deadline by Johanna Harness

  1. Liz Fredericks

    January 18, 2012 at 7:00 AM

    Johanna! You’ve given me a superb shopping list, beginning with the album and the tough love book. And Celebration Park . . . .sometimes living here, I forget how much stark beauty surrounds us. Thanks for reminding me to look in my home for inspiration.

    • Johanna Harness

      January 18, 2012 at 7:11 AM

      Thanks, Liz. My dad loved exploring Idaho. When I’d ask if he ever wanted to travel farther away, he’d shrug and say, “I haven’t seen all of Idaho yet.”

  2. Peggy Staggs

    January 18, 2012 at 7:35 AM

    Like Liz, I forget how lucky we are to live in Idaho. So much history and such a beautiful area. Thanks for the reminder. I’ll be checking Amazon for All Wounds.

    • Johanna Harness

      January 18, 2012 at 4:58 PM

      Yes. It’s easy to take for granted the things so close to home.

  3. Janis McCurry

    January 18, 2012 at 7:52 AM

    Yeats put to music sounds very cool. Thanks for the helpful resources.

    My influences are usually through conversations with friends or my own daydreams.

    • Johanna Harness

      January 18, 2012 at 5:01 PM

      Mike Scott replied on twitter and said he’s hoping the album will be out here in late spring. sigh. I guess I can quit checking iTunes every day.

  4. Lynn Mapp

    January 18, 2012 at 12:10 PM

    Johanna, thank you for the 3-2-1. I’ll see how I can make this a part of my life. I’ll check out the books as well.

    • Johanna Harness

      January 18, 2012 at 5:02 PM

      I’d love to see your 3-2-1 list, Lynn! I really missed seeing you over Christmas break.

  5. Kristina

    January 18, 2012 at 12:19 PM

    Pretty much, you inspire me. I’m so lucky to have met you. 🙂

  6. Mary Vine

    January 18, 2012 at 2:59 PM

    Love the pictures and always love your blog posts. Thanks!

  7. ramblingsfromtheleft

    January 18, 2012 at 3:02 PM

    Johanna, I am in love with the sense of awe you communicated about Idaho. As a young woman, my secret longing was to travel throughout the lower forty-eight, across the continent on a Canadian rail from Prince Edward Island to Vancouver Island and to breathe the sights and sounds of our magnificent country. You father’s words are wise. When people ask me why a person who had such a strong longing never took flight, I simply tell them. I didn’t have to travel the world, because the world came to me. My City is New York and all roads converged on her well worn avenues.

    My 3-2-1 has a different bent. I began reading from book one, an author I wanted to explore. He wrote over 20 books, but I started with the first three. He brought to life a new city, the diversity and poetry of its landscape and did it with beautiful prose. Oddly, he is a mystery writer, and a very unique man, Michael Connelly. I read two love stories by two women in my RWA-WF group and fell in love with romance all over again, Kristina McMorris and Marilyn Brant, I rediscovered the poetry in a writer/composer of the boomer generation. Like Judy Blue Eyes, her intricate cords reminded me of the poet in myself. Old perhaps, but never worn … Jone Mitchell.

    • Johanna Harness

      January 18, 2012 at 5:06 PM

      I love the way you’re able to draw parallels between the urban and rural experience. What a blessing you are. Also–I love Michael Connelly’s books. Robert Crais too. Have you read Ian Rankin? I don’t write mysteries, but I sure love them.

  8. Clarissa Southwickcl

    January 20, 2012 at 7:03 PM

    Wonderful recommendations, Johanna! I haven’t really thought much about what has influenced my work. I do try to do a “list of ten” a la Alex Sokoloff whenever I start a new project, just to see what others have done that’s similar to my ideas. It helps me avoid cliches.


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