Saturday, November 24, 2012

Battling



For once the other day things were going fine. I caught up on my chores and made my guy's favorite dinner (which he deserves because he works in retail and for him every day from now until Christmas is a bad day.) I also took the pups out for a long walk and had a chat with a friend who's out of work and needs the moral support. I felt great and was ready to knock out some words. Only the minute I sat down to write crickets began chirping in my head.

Besides the crickets there was nothing. I had plenty to write, but no idea on where to start or what to put on the page. My brain flatly refused to cough up a single word of fiction.

Sometimes I do go blank like that, like the page I'm not writing, and there are a couple of ways I shake it off: I get up and walk around for a few minutes, or I listen to a song from my novel playlist, or I fold laundry or do some other mindless task. Then I go back and try again, and usually that works.

Not this time. I repeated my shake-it-off routine until I ran through everything that usually works and I was still drawing the blank.

I have a long-standing agreement with my creative side; I do not abuse it and it does not bail on me. Even now and then one of us violates that agreement, and then it's time to engage more directly. When I overwork my creative side, it messes up everything I do until I take a break. When my creative side runs out on me, I go after it and drag it back to work.

When all my gentler methods fail, I sit down and start typing story. What comes out on the page is always boring and mechanical and about as much fun to write as an obituary. My internal editor immediately rears her pointy little head and starts blowing raspberries at the page. I churn on, typing whatever makes sense because I know writing badly is not just bad writing, it's bait.

My creative side is smug, full of herself and generally thinks she can do no wrong -- she has to be that way, and I accept it because she makes the magic happen. I'm just the dumb assistant who does the grunt work, and that's all I'm ever going to be, and that's fine because I know what every other stage hand knows: can't have a show without the stage.

The time I spend writing absolute crap varies; sometimes it's an hour of plodding, other times it's a few minutes. At some point in the process of typing, my creative side shows up to have a look. If she had any sense at all she'd let me trudge on for hours, but no, Ms. Busybody can't stay away. Naturally she zeroes on something particularly lame so she can sneer and make fun of it.

I let her have a few snickers as I back away from the page and let her get in front of me. See, I've got her now, and I know what she's going to do: tell me how to rewrite it. Which I do, and then continue on until she makes another snide suggestion, and another, and then loses all patience with me, pushes me aside and takes over from there. No matter how many blank cards I draw, writing through them until the creativity shows up and takes over always works.

How do you get your creativity to kick in when it wants nothing to do with you? Let us know in comments.

4 comments:

  1. Sometimes drudgery helps, lol. If I can't get the muse to give me the time of day, sometimes I'll take it to the other extreme. Clean baseboards until my knees ache. Track down hidden hairballs. Give the toilet & grout a good scrubbing, all during the time I usually write.
    Before too long, I can hear her trying to nudge me back, like, "What are you doing? We were meant for dreamier things than this! Drop the disinfectant, dammit! Get back to that keyboard!"

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  2. I sneak up on mine. If I'm feeling all out of ideas, as if I couldn't possibly write the next scene, I think, "well, I don't have to write anything new. I'll just open up the file and edit what I wrote yesterday". Often that's enough.

    If it's not, I push it a bit further: "can't possibly write a scene, but I could jot down a few notes on what might happen next". That almost always works -- soon I'm going back filling in the gaps between the notes and the scene starts emerging.

    But if all else fails, I just leave a note in brackets, eg [memory scene involving characters A, B and C] and go on to write the next bit I do know. I have a couple of those in my NaNo novel. Hoping inspiration strikes before Nov 30!

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  3. Music is good. Like you, I have a playlist, and this song is taking me to places right now:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_reJQQ8LPw
    Also, going back and looking at the synopsis. Is there a slack point in the story?
    Lastly, writing through it. Just putting something down as a placekeeper, so I know what I'm doing and what I want to achieve with that scene.

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  4. Like you, I write until the creativity comes back, which I why I wrote two chapters on Thursday and later deleted both of them.

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