It’s happening again. My mind feels like a maze, and I’m running from idea to idea, bouncing off the walls inside my head. I stare into space for hours, thinking about nothing. I check my social media accounts manically, in between games of Candy Crush Saga. “Bing, bing bing! Richochet Rabbit!” That is my brain. There are about a hundred tabs open on my iPad. One of them is my book. This creation that was trapped in my head for about 20 years, suddenly released from prison a year ago. It came out as memoir, then fiction took over. It was entirely out of my control. It flowed from brain to fingers then became 10,000 word group of essays. Each told a story. “You need a plot for this to be a book, with a beginning, a middle, and an end,” a wise writing friend told me. “But I’m a pantser” I said, “Writing by the seat of my pants, that’s a thing.” I had read this, which flooded me with relief at the time. I thought my career as a writer was done for. Not organized, no story line. Finished. And it was not over, however, one can only fly by the seat of ones pants for so long. I knew this, just needed to hear it. So, I went back to school, pushed through the online course I had enrolled in from the Success Publishing Academy. Shout out to Alexa Haddock Bigwarfe from Women in Publishing and founder of the WritePublishSell web page- I highly recommend it!) Back to learning the basics. From that, I learned how to brainstorm an outline, which every book must have eventually, if not in the beginning. Voila, the plot became clear. With that, a key chapter that I had stopped writing at one point as I did not know where it was going beyond into a dark woods, became a real turning point in the story. Woot! Yay me. I typed furiously. I could even picture the cover of the book, based on this chapter. I sketched it and shared with an artist friend of mine. I was firing on all cylinders! I still write some stuff with pen and paper, and I tend to take notes while I am typing . Anything that pops into my head randomly, goes in a small notebook. Then, bang, that proverbial brick wall stopped me completely. There I sat with 100 tabs open, and a pile of note paper covered with gibberish. Work got busy, the garden needed planting, I had a cocktail on the deck at sunset (unlike the stereotype, I cannot write after I drink alcohol.) On and on. So I searched online “How to conquer writer’s block” Hey it works. I once Googled “How to find a lost parrot” and it worked. But that is another story! I digress. One suggestion was “Write about writer’s block” And, it’s working, because, well, here I am, I just wrote this blog. So, cheers my writing friends! I am going to hop on over to the tab that is my book and get back on track now. I hope maybe this helps someone else refocus, hope this reaches you as you bounce from tab to tab, on the brink of despair! Do not give up! As my high school writing teacher wrote in my yearbook: “Keep Writing!” Thanks Mr. Merrigan!
Working on one of my stories. It’s like revisiting the most magical place on Earth. Is it possible to fall in love with one’s own written work? Every time I go back, I think of new little details and plug them in here and there. Then I go back to the beginning and re-read it. I laugh, maybe cry a little.Then I sit and look out into the distance, daydreaming, only seeing what is in my mind’s eye.
I am bursting with wild ideas, too many really. I tackle one and pin it down, and another one sprints by me. It is like playing tag with a hundred people, and always being “IT”, never able to catch any one of them. I know I need to focus on one, catch it, and commit it to paper, to be fine tuned and fully fledged later.
It’s delightful at the same time it is frustrating; like raising a child and fearing at the same time you fiercely admire and love the wayward being that has a life of its own.
It’s fearful – is my love for this thing as wrong as the first time I fell in love with a bad boy? Will others love it as much as I do? Dare I dream someone would? Does it really matter? Why is the desire to write such a burning thing?
But, first things first! I feel the need to figure out where it is going, how it will finish. For now, I am following a path and I am not in charge of the twists and turns. There is no real way to know yet where it will go. I am running on blind faith. It is pulling me along by its strands, and I am hanging on and weaving them together in its wake.
Is this how it is? Is this what REAL writers feel? How do you stand it? And, when you come up for air, as you simply must do at some point, for your own survival, is it normal to take days, or maybe a week to fully come back to it? Or sometimes, mere hours?
Am I crazy? Don’t answer that! But, is this what it is like for all writers?
Several months ago, I got it in my head I needed a secretary style writing desk. My husband and I searched every antique shop within a 30 mile radius, plus online ads, ad nauseam. I knew I would recognize the right one when I saw it. My requirements were clear – it absolutely must have a drop front, (no, NOT a roll top) it must have drawers, it must be made of real wood, it must have many cubbies. Perfection of condition not required; it had to be old, because it must have a history. I imagined sitting down to write with the ghosts of previous owners pushing my pen and spiritually urging me on. I imagined spending hours wondering who they were, and what interesting or mundane work they produced while bent over the desk. (My capacity for daydreaming really knows no bounds) For a while it was quite an obsession. There are many of these desks, but none of them really spoke to me. After a while, I decided to give up my quest for a bit and set up a table for my writing space in the spare bedroom of my house. It functioned. It really is a nice little table. I got on with life, and with writing. Words don’t care where you sit when you write them. But, I, being a mere human, remained wistful and dreamy about a real desk.
And then – MAGIC! The desk found me. I casually mentioned my search while at Easter dinner at my in laws. They own a huge New England home which sits right on the common in town. It is the home my husband and his 7 siblings grew up in, a charming large old house filled to the brim with history, antiques and memories. My sister in law said, “Oh, we have one of those here, in the apartment.” The in law apartment is the only part of the house I never saw. She brought me over to show me and there it was. A charming little secretary desk, antique, in very good condition, with the requisite drop front, including key, and cubbies and drawers. I was enthralled. “It belonged to great Aunt Mary,” My sister in law said. “Talk to Christopher (my brother in law), I am sure he would let you buy it.”
Christopher immediately said “Oh I would give it to you. It would be nice to keep it in the family.”
I almost swooned. Not only is it a family heirloom, but it belonged to Great Aunt Mary! And, inside it was a black and white old photograph of said Aunt Mary, in her younger days. Not only do I get to imagine the history, I can envision who the previous owner was as I daydream her various tasks, be it as mundane as writing checks ( or were they Cheques back then) or as exciting as writing a letter to a lover, or an overseas soldier husband, or children off to college. Perhaps she wrote poetry she never showed anyone, and locked it up in the cubbies? Or maybe, just maybe, she enjoyed writing her memoirs, or journaled her feelings and observations? Perhaps she dreamed of a life of writing and publication.
I do not know any of those things, and I don’t think I will ever know, as Great Aunt Mary passed away at the age of 89 some thirty years ago. Sadly, nobody around today knows or remembers a whole lot about her. What I DO know is, the Universe pays attention and sometimes, when you let go of something you seek so diligently, it finds you! And, I am willing to bet, Great Aunt Mary will find a way to speak to me and perhaps reveal a little bit about herself through this cherished heirloom.
Here is an interesting writing exercise – credit to Kasey Mathews for teaching it to me. Think of a question and write bullet point answers. It’s actually kind of fun, and it gets you writing. Could be a very useful tool not only to get the writing juices flowing, but to help you figure out what you really feel about something that maybe is troubling you, or maybe even to help you decide which way your character in your story should go, etc. I can think of a lot of ways this helps.
Here is my question:
Why do I write?
Answers – writing my very first thoughts, without thinking a whole lot about it:
To sort out my thoughts
To be remembered
To touch others
To make stories come out the way I wish
To expel feelings
To connect with the world
Because it’s fun
Why do you write?