Jan 21

Is there ever a break from writing?

Short answer: no.

Ha ha! End of post!

OK, longer answer:

I’m sitting here knitting (yup–it’s a great thing to do when your brain is too tired to keep track of all the different threads in what you’re writing) and out of the thousands of images and feelings floating through my consciousness comes–“black.”

As in:

Sexy!

This is a Lotus Exige, which is the racing version of the Elise, which is one of my favorite cars in the category of “it’s not outside the realm of possibility that one day I will own one.” (The other category is “Perhaps in another lifetime.”)

So there is this word “black” and I drop my knitting (literally–I almost lost a stitch) and run to my computer to find the one place in a story of over eight thousand words where I say my main character’s Lotus Elise is red. (Don’t let anyone ever tell you the hopes and fears of a writer don’t leak out all over the page.) And I sit there, fingers poised, and think of what it would mean to make the car black instead of red.

Black: death, darkness, despair, secrecy, bereavement

Red: blood, overwhelming emotion, danger, shame

The fingers come down! Definitely the car needs to be black.

And for those of you who don’t think the color of a car matters, I submit this Elise:

Not sexy.

I know. It is a travesty. Avert your eyes.

However, if I ever need to indicate that my character is a complete moron, I will perhaps choose this color for his Elise.

Fortunately, my character is not a moron. Just haunted and broken. So much better!

Anyway, this is why writers always have a little notebook. When you’re hot and heavy in a story little things like the perfect word choice or plot direction or line of dialogue will pop out of nowhere and you’re fooling yourself if you think you’re going to remember it later. YOU HAVE TO WRITE IT DOWN AS SOON AS IT COMES INTO YOUR HEAD.

Einstein said he never memorized his home phone number because it was in the phone book and he didn’t want to waste brain space on something that was recorded somewhere else. I completely agree with this–and it’s another reason why I write those ideas down right away. Then I can “forget” them and there’s room for the next thought/connection to come up. Who knows where the twisting path of a story will take you? If you’re wasting space trying to remember where you were, you’ll never have the open space to see where it’s possible to go.

(This is also why I write everything down on my calendar. I don’t want to re-remember my appointments because that takes up my idea space. Plus it’s just stressful wondering if you’re forgetting something important!)

That twilight space between awake and asleep is another reason to have a notebook. Thomas Edison knew the power of the unconscious in this space. When he was working on a problem, he napped sitting up, holding a handful of ball bearings, which would drop to the floor and wake him up when he drifted off. When he woke up he wrote down everything in his head.

When I’m into a story, I have paper, a pencil, and a little flashlight right next to my head at night. When my characters start talking to each other at three in the morning all I have to do is roll over and record their voices. Again, those thoughts will be long gone by morning no matter how “unforgettable” you think they are. Grab them and pin them to earth as soon as you can.

It comes down to how committed you are to your story and your writing. If it’s burning inside you, you won’t want to miss a single lead. And when the perfect color for the car your character drives pops into your head you won’t sit there and say, “Yeah, that’s good. I’ll get to that later.” You’ll drop your knitting, even if it means you lose a stitch, and call up the exact place that color belongs.

Because that’s what it takes to keep your writing burning down your veins onto the page.