Yesterday laryngitis prevented me from getting any serious work done, and I was slightly miffed. I have a quite a backlog of posts to write and e-mails to answer, and the inconvenience annoyed me. Determined not to sit around and mope, I spent my morning writing session putting together a new journal and thinking about a story. The journal turned out neat, and while no new revelations about my story struck me (for me that kind of lightning cannot be summoned at will) I did sort out a few things that had needed more thought but that I hadn't had the time to brood on.
I devoted the afternoon and early evening to clearing out some closets, packing up donations for Goodwill and cleaning out the pantry. This is my pantry:
Yes, I alphabetize my spices and categorize my canned goods; it keeps me from having to hunt for things when I'm cooking. It also gave me a chance to check expiration dates and get a handle on what I need the next time I go shopping. This is all part of taking care of a family, and that's my first job anyway.
My voice is better now, which is excellent because I hate whispering, but tonight's editing session is off because I have family obligations to attend to. Families tend to be inconvenient that way; they're always doing something that requires our attention and/or our physical presence. And because we love our families for putting up with all of our writing life nonsense (last week my family were absolute troopers when I was spending twelve hours a day online to promote) the work schedule has to come second to them. I don't expect I'll be thinking at all about writing tonight, but that's okay -- I'll be participating in life and having fun surrounded by the people I love. Nothing is better for recharging the creative batteries than that.
Here are five other things you still can do as a writer whenever life interrupts your writing:
Run Title Ideas: for this you need your brain, a pen and a small notepad. Make a key word list that relates to your story and start playing with combinations or synonyms of the words to form new ideas for titles. Pay attention to the world around you, too; I once got a stupendous title idea when I saw a couple of signs on the highway during a road trip and recombined the words.
Characterize the Crowd: Make up a name, an occupation and a goal for interesting strangers you see while you're out and about in the world. Keep that notepad and pen handy to jot down the best of your ideas for future characters (and, if you have the opportunity, note a physical description of the person who inspired it.)
Memory Game: this is one I play often when I'm away from the desk; I observe a person, place or thing, wait five minutes and then jot down what details I remember about them. This is a great exercise in sharpening your memory and determining what is memorable about anything.
First Lines Tinkering: like the title ideas exercise, just think about what words you want to use in the opening sentence of your story, or work on giving more immediate impact to the sentence you've already written.
Story Photo Ops: If you have a camera with you, why not take some photos of interesting subjects around you? Look for things that are not only attractive or compelling in some way, but that also inspire your curiosity. I keep a photo album specifically of neat places and things I see when I'm out that I think I can work into a story.
Inconveniences -- a few large, but mostly minor -- often make a riddle out of our writing lives. Becoming frustrated or sulking when they happen makes them breed, I think, so I've learned to put the work on hold and simply deal with them as cheerfully as I can manage. It's the resentment that is the creative poison, not the inconvenience itself, so shedding it as quickly as possible is the best kind of damage control.