Usually, this feeling grabs me whenever I’ve failed to do my upfront homework while preparing to write a new story. Maybe I didn’t take the time to properly explore an idea that sounded neat at the outset, and instead started writing just to see where the notion took me. Sometimes that works, and it can be hugely fun and satisfying when everything falls into place. However, there also are those occasions where I end up like Wile E. Coyote, slamming face-first into the proverbial canyon wall.
Yep, we all know there are going to be days when the words just don’t want to spill forth, no matter how long you sit in front of your computer, or how hard you stare at your screen. You can feel them; they’re a jumble up in your head, but they’re fighting amongst themselves and really have no need for you to be bugging them right now. You can usually coax them out sooner or later, and every writer has their trick for doing just that. For me? My usual method is to just walk away from the whole thing.
Over the years, I’ve found that focusing on some completely unrelated activity is one of the best ways for me to work the knots out of a story that’s giving me fits. I go for the mundane sorts of tasks, like working in the yard, washing the car, folding laundry, cooking dinner, or just taking a shower. My mind is free to wander during these times, and as often as not I’ll have to stop whatever I’m doing so I can run back to my desk and jot down a bunch of notes.
The other night, I was shaving when—at long last—something sparked in my little monkey brain as I let it bounce around the room a bit. The kinks in the story I’ve been plotting for the past week or so just straightened themselves out as I was staring at myself in the mirror. It all happened in the space of less than thirty seconds. Hell, I nearly cut my own throat in my excitement, because I could feel right then that this was the answer! Thankfully, I survived the incident and was able to transcribe my nonsensical ramblings to the page, small globs of shaving cream dangling from my ears and everything.
Oh, and it offered me the idea for this month’s post. So, you know…a two-fer!
(Meanwhile, my wife just shakes her head as she watches all of this unfold.)
How about you? What do you do when the words don’t want to play? How do you go about finding that spark?