Flipping the Switch

Some days, the writing comes easy. Other days, it’s not. Then there are the days where getting to the writing place is a bigger challenge than making the story happen. This may be one of those days. It’s been one of those weekends. Possibly weeks. Hard to tell, sometimes. Things like this are going to happen to every writer, at one time or another. If it hasn’t happened yet, wait.

Real Life Romance Hero is back home, and we’re settling into the post-hospital, get-back-on-feet phase. Funny thing about that phase, it’s rarely the same twice, and yet it’s consistent. Caregiving is a different mindset from writing historical romance, though both are fueled by love.

On the caregiving front, there are medications to dispense, things to watch for, ways to help the loved one get back in their game. Some are physical, some are emotional. A lot of them take a lot of energy out of the caregiver, even when it’s given gladly. In most cases, things are more orderly in story world, the characters (usually) exactly where the writer has left them, and if they move, most times they will leave a forwarding address. Funny thing about the times when writing has to go on the back burner; sometimes, story problems work themselves out while the writer is tending to other things. Sometimes this has something to do with those other things, and sometimes, all the story needed was some time and space to do its own thing.

By now, I’ve found there is a pattern, at least for me, to switch between the two modes. No big surprise, it involves stationery.

My park boyfriend?  (considering that he swam away, probably not :P)

My park boyfriend?
(considering that he swam away, probably not)

One of the best pieces of writing advice I ever received was from K.A. Mitchell:

  1. Change your seat.
  2. Open the file.

Okay, that’s two, but they go together. This morning, after not enough sleep and too much stress, the fact remained that it was still Monday, and nobody else is going to write my stories, blog entries, etc. So. This means writing must happen, even if brain wants to crawl under the covers and pretend it is eight years old. That’s where the sage advice comes into play. I filled my purple cup with ice and water, loaded my hobo bag with notebook, pen pouch and camera and headed for the park. No idea what I was going to do when I got there, but:

  1. Change your seat.
*not* the view from my recliner

*not* the view from my recliner

It’s been said that time + distance = perspective, and I do find that to be true. In this case, a walk around the lake (lack of mallard boyfriend notwithstanding) puts me in a different head space than the same four walls I see every day. I also noticed that I saw only the male ducks, which lets me know the gals may very well be tending their nests, which means bebeh duckage in the not too distant future. That alone is a mood booster, and the physical act of walking around the lake and peeping at blooming things does get the mind in a different frame.

boys, boys, boys

boys, boys, boys

Which is the right place to be for:

2. Open the file.

In this case, the notebook. I’ve learned that, for me, when I’m staring at a blinking cursor, or don’t know what file to open first, the answer lies in good old pen and paper. Big notebook is by Papaya Art, small notebook is Moleskine. There’s something special in touching the smooth paper (will probably do another post on the Papaya Art books later) and deciding which color gets to come out and play when I freewrite.

i1035 FW1.1

Part of the freewriting is making lists. What projects do I need to work on this week? Which ones are time-sensitive/have a deadline? Which do I feel most capable to take on in my present state? Which ones need some time and distance? What specific tasks do I need to complete to make progress on said projects?

Breaking it down that way is a lot more manageable than looking at the big looming wall of Things To Be Done. I’m intuitive, but like order, so sometimes, it’s asking myself which task feels like it wants to be done first. Things usually look like this:

  • make bullet point outline for scene X in Project A
  • blorch (aka babble on paper) for scene Y in Project B
  • visit sites C, D and E to research Project F
  • respond to latest email from Collaborator on Joint Project

Maybe research is what I can do at the moment, or maybe I want to dive into the wilds of a blorch, where it’s gloves off and anything goes, where getting it all down as fast and true and messy as possible is what’s needed. Putting things down in pen and ink can be like putting a cage around the Tasmanian Devil whirling at will through my brain space. Contained, he’ll tire himself out, settle down, and we can have some fun together. Thing by thing, what do I need to make each thing happen?

Not that different, after all, from caregiving. Maybe some of this is taking care of those voices who live in my head. Maybe not, but what I do know is that it’s a pretty reliable way to flip the switch that opens the door to story world, and I’m glad it’s there.

Writer friends, how do you flip your switches?

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