I’ve always been a “sit-and-do-it” kinda gal. I don’t believe in a mystical muse. I don’t fuss over the state of my first draft because the first draft is where I feel out the story. Revisions are where the real magic happens.
But lately, I’ve been struggling with settling into writing. Between writing and marketing responsibilities and miscellaneous life things, I seem to be in forever catch-up mode. My house and brain are cluttered beyond recognition. Those brain squirrels we all like to joke about have turned into rabid chipmunks.
I’d started on a new project in October and was determined to use the NaNo momentum to finish the proposal and submit it to my agent. The story seed has been tumbling in my brain since last spring and I’ve mind-mapped the various threads and characters until I felt I had a solid hold on where this was going.
First week was amazing. I was rocking the words. The characters and story lines were coming together. I was in writer heaven.
Then those crazy chipmunks got out of their cage. The first day, I fought through it and managed to make a bit of progress despite the chatter. Day two, I ended up deleting more words than I wrote. Something was missing and the harder I pushed, the further away I got.
Day three, I gave up. Yup, gave up! I closed the word document and went off to play with the chipmunks and squirrels. And – you knew this was coming from the title of the post – it turned out to be the day I found the missing links in the story.
But here’s the thing … it could just have easily been a day spent moving clutter and accomplishing nothing. Why did it turn out to be the turning point in my writing slump?
1) I wasn’t looking for answers.
A lot of times when we’re stuck on a plot point or have a character who isn’t coming together, we knot and re-knot the loose threads in a desperate attempt to keep the story together. If you’ve ever done a yarn project (knitting, crocheting, whatever), you know that there’s a point in the untangling of yarn when you find yourself with a mess that can’t be untangled.
I didn’t think about my story or the characters or how many words I still needed. That doesn’t mean the story wasn’t still bouncing around in my brain. It just means that I wasn’t actively trying to solve the problems.
2) I hung out on Facebook.
Seriously. I know, we all spend too much time there as it is, so what was I thinking?! I have a confession … I don’t spend much time on Facebook lately. Or any social media. I used to. Then earlier this year, I realized something: social media was becoming a chore; I was struggling to stay focused and positive and the more time I spent on social media, the harder it became.
Instead of my usual quick on and off, that day I lingered. I clicked links and watched videos.
3) I stopped worrying about what I wasn’t getting done.
Yes, I needed to put words on the page. Yes, I needed to finish writing the synopsis. Yes, I needed to come up with a pitch paragraph for yet another project. I didn’t do any of those things.
I crocheted a couple of little owls that will be giveaways for my May release. I watched the last episode of This is Us on my DVR.
As I was futzing about, a video I’d watched on Facebook earlier in the day was in my head. It wasn’t a topic I’d entertained as a thread for a story but suddenly it was the thread I’d been missing. For the rest of that day, the tangle of yarn I’d been avoiding slowly unraveled without me tugging or fussing over it.
The following day, the synopsis that didn’t want to be written practically wrote itself.
It doesn’t always happen like that. Some non-writing days become just non-writing days. Those are usually the ones when I’ve been stressing over a problem I can’t solve yet can’t release the stranglehold on the need to solve it.
Next time you’re stuck or stressed, walk away. You never, know … if you let the brain squirrels loose, you may discover that they’ll bring back all sorts of story nuts.