Friday, December 04, 2009

Daydream Believer

This week has been a transition sort of week for me, writing-wise. I had ambitious plans of jumping back into writing Willa on Monday morning, after taking a couple of weeks to edit Kindred, then five days for a fun Thanksgiving holiday while we had family in town. Sometimes other projects, or life, intrudes during the writing of a first draft, and even if it's for thoroughly enjoyable reasons, I often regret having to take more than a couple days off at a time from writing... once I get back to the computer, or open that long neglected file.

Instead of smoothly shifting gears this week, I ended up grinding them. Thursday rolled around before I managed to get any new words onto the screen. And I have a feeling they'll be words that end up on the cutting room floor. But at least I have some direction for the next scene. Direction is good!

Part of the problem stemmed from having left off writing at a point where I didn't quite know what came next. I needed to daydream, let my mind be free to explore possibilities for a series of scenes that encompass four important secondary characters' introductions. That's what my right brain was telling me to do. My left brain (where my internal editor resides) was in a panic to start producing words and do it like yesterday you sluggard!

Talk like that tends to freeze me creatively. She's muzzled now. I can proceed.

What about you? If you are a writer, what do you do when you feel stalled and the words just aren't coming? Push through? Back off? Daydream about your characters? Read a good novel? Go back and edit earlier chapters or scenes? Eat more chocolate?

Do you have a tried and true method for breaking through that wall? Do share!

photo by pareeerica (Flickr)


  1. Lori, Loved this post. Sometimes I am so full of longing to create - craft a new story - that I don't let the story idea simmer long enough. That happened recently during our prolonged power outage. Having finished with The Locket I couldn't stand another minute of not having something else going so dove in and wrote that opening chapter. And it was ALL WRONG! Certainly cutting-room floor material. Maybe I got too caught up in writing 18c.-style by candlelight:) So I did what you do - found a picture in my Foxfire book that is the heart of this next story, tore it out (hard to do to those beloved books!), and set it out so I can ponder it awhile.

    My editor and creator are in constant conflict and, to borrow from Stephen King, I'm never really comfortable when not writing. Breaks are hard for me even with holidays and a houseful of company like you said. Even when eating chocolate:)

    So glad to have a writing friend like you. I relate to each and every word you write. Hope your day is full of daydreaming and wonderful words.

  2. I often just force myself to write, even if it's not good or what I really want. I give myself a daily word count goal and don't easily miss it. If I do, I tend to beat myself up!

  3. All of the above, Lori! Sometimes I think my characters from different stories are fighting for my attention and stalling everything! Carla, you left me alone in the woods, where's my hero? Carla, you have my timeline all messed up, I need order in my life! Carla, she is all I need, help her to see that. Carla . . . my head is exploding!

    Really, one of the only things I can do at times like that is pray. I try everything else, and as you see sometimes those brainstorms are counterproductive, but I am humbled time and again when I have to write on my knees. You know?

  4. Laura,

    I recently read a book that advocated taking 6, 8, even 12 weeks to "dreamstorm" a new novel before ever setting down the first word. While I did brainstorm WILLA more than I have any novel before, I'm not sure I could do so for that long. That impulse to start pouring it out would be overwhelming at some point, I'm sure. But as you've said elsewhere, no writing is wasted.

    And I'm thinking now that what I wrote on Thursday may not be cut. At least not right away. I think I jumped into the scene too late, which is a rarity with me. Usually I start them early and end them late, and trim off the excess at some point in editing later drafts.

    I'm so blessed you enjoy this blog. I started it over a year ago as a personal writing journal, just to see if I'd like blogging. It takes its chunk of time from my week, but I've found I do like it. Like the interaction when someone comments, like having this permanent record of a writing life stored in a creative format. I'm gradually trying to shift the content to something of more interest to other writers, readers, and history buffs, as well as writing about my own "novel journey."

  5. Jody,

    Most days I can make myself "just do it" and produce 1000-1500 words (a full day's work for me), but only if I'm clear about where the plot is going. If that's foggy, I hesitate to move forward, and often won't until I can at least see the next step. Thankfully that's never lasted more than two or three days, before the breakthrough comes.

    What I didn't mention in my original post is how often in these times I end up on my face praying, "Lord help!" :) But you've made me think with this:

    "I often just force myself to write, even if it's not good or what I really want."

    I'm determined to write this story linear, but perhaps on those days when I'm stuck, instead of drifting off to bake something or run errands while the fog clears, I would be better off writing something, anything. Another scene or vignette. Even something I know won't end up in the novel. To keep up the habit (which flags SO quickly with a skipped day or two it's scary!) and explore characters and provide the opportunity for serendipity to happen.

  6. Carla,

    LOL. As I was reading your comment I kept hearing, "Mommy-mommy-mommy-mommy!" They do come to feel like children, these characters.

    "Really, one of the only things I can do at times like that is pray.... I am humbled time and again when I have to write on my knees. You know?"

    Oh, yes. And even though they are hard to go through, I'm thankful for the days of struggle when it's clear this book won't get written without God's grace. I want to stay in the place of dependency, even while He gives me confidence as I grow in the writing craft. Confidence not so much in my ability, but in His enabling.

  7. Yes, they are like children. And we are God's children. Isn't it amazing that He cares so very much for even the ideas we have. Sometimes that blows me away.

    You couldn't have said it better - Grace, dependency, confidency, growth, His enabling. I'm going to put that on a sticky note somewhere!

  8. Amen to all that:) I often think I'm not self-confident but God-confident. It really is moving to think he cares about our story people. He really is the source of creativity and I'm so thankful He gifted us with the joy and challenges of writing.

  9. I do find that reading a good book inspires me. If an author has really captured some good emotion it makes my fingers itch to try and translate that strength into my work. On the other hand, reading a bad book (which happens on accident sometimes!) can help too. Because I can say 'where did it go wrong?? Why didn't that work??' and then set about trying to avoid those pitfalls in my own writing.

    If all else fails, I have been known to just start writing and see where it goes. And it may all be cutting room floor material, as you put it. But at least it usually knocks me out of my stuck point. All these interruptions really get me too, so I've been dealing with the grinding gears on my WIP this week!

  10. Maisey, Finding a new author, or a new book by a well-loved author, that sends me running to the computer with inspiration is one of my favorite things.

    "If all else fails, I have been known to just start writing and see where it goes."

    I keep coming back to a certain hang-up of mine: I forget to give myself permission to play, to explore, to stray outside the plot or story ideas that I've established. So what if I spend a couple of hours and write a couple thousand words that don't go anywhere? At least I went through the motions instead of staring at the screen for three days. And what if in those words I discover something unexpected, something wonderful I never thought of during brainstorming? Why (rhetorically) is it such a struggle to remember it's perfectly fine to do this?