First, allow me to explain the concept of the Undertoad.
It’s a concept I learned from the Victorian Storytelling Guild. I’m sure it has it’s origins in a mis-hearing of ‘undertow’ and there is undoubtedly a story that goes with that (really, undoubtedly 😉 ) but that’s for another day. Today is for what it has come to mean.
Oral storytellers are performers and, as all performers who have been doing it for more than five minutes know, when it comes to performance, planning ahead and rehearsal is really important. But no matter how hard you plan and rehearse and think you are prepared, there is always the risk of the undertoad.
The undertoad is that unexpected something that you can’t plan for, that you couldn’t forsee, that can throw you for a loop and disrupt the best-laid plans. It’s the school that overinvites, because, surely, there’s no difference between telling to 20 children and 200? Or the festival that thinks that putting you outside on a stage with a microphone is exactly the same as inside in a library, as long as the weather’s good. The only way to handle the undertoad is to know that he could appear at any moment and to be flexible enough to manage the situation.
Well, that’s how my November’s turning out.
Monday was supposed to be my first full day of planning for my new book, in keeping with my NaNo commitment to plan first and write next, I had my Alexandra Sokoloff board all sectioned off and my index cards and was raring to go. I have very little of this story nutted out to date. I have one character, possibly two, who I know quite well and some ideas and that’s about it. But I had faith that with some work it would all come together. And it would have. Except…
Except my child woke up in a very bad way and needed looking after. And in the course of looking after her, I discovered that I had a mouse resident in my under-sink cupboard. And that he’d ventured into the cupboard next door as well and left his calling cards everywhere. I actually picked him up, accidentally, in a cloth that he’d made his house, but sadly didn’t realise in time to catch him and put him outside.
So Monday, instead of a wondrous flurry of planning, became a day of disinfecting and washing things and nursing and all manner of things I didn’t intend. Undertoads, in fact.
Tuesday was a holiday here and we had plans, so it was always going to be difficult. And the mouse is still in the house somewhere.
Today I discovered that the voluntary commitment I thought I had for Friday is not for approximately three hours, but rather for the whole day – and indeed, a long day. I still have cordial and brownies to make for the fête on the weekend (because there’s nothing like a mouse in the kitchen to put a crimp in your cooking plans).
And Saturday is Dancing Concert Day (forget getting anything but hair, makeup, ferrying, feeding and watching done on that day).
And the mouse is still resident.
And did I mention that the dog has done an anterior cruciate? Not as funny as it sounds.
Very soon, this undertoad will qualify as an overtoad, or indeed an ubertoad.
So here’s what I’m doing. I have let myself off my solid 3-hour-stint plans for the rest of this week. There is only so much stress I can take without snapping at all I hold near and dear and it really isn’t worth that. I have index cards in my bag, by my bed and on my desk. While I’m cooking and shopping for mousetraps, I am thinking constantly about my story and jotting down scene ideas and character notes as they come. I’m also writing down snippets of scenes as they come to me (in the gaps between disinfecting) and today I think I might have struck on an opening! And next week, after this toady mess has passed, I will put them together and have a running start at framing this new tale. I can make this one better, stronger, more gripping and I shall.
Just as soon as I climb over this toad.
How’s your November going?