When you’re hungry, eat. When you eat, eat food.
The fact that I know exactly how much longer it will be until lunch should explain how I got on this theme for today’s blog. The fact that I have a mental list of every snack in the house, can rattle off a ranking of which order I would prefer to consume them, and have already decided I will propose tonight as a foraging night (meaning we have food, we’re all grownups, everybody find food and eat it, because I’m not cooking) sealed the deal on today’s topic. The quote above comes from my cousin, a tall, tattooed, red-haired Army veteran with the voice of an angel, who is adept at giving me smacks upside the head when needed. I do not recall when this particular quote came into play, ( best guess a few years back) but I remember it, word for word
This is not a post on nutrition, and it is. It is not, in the aspect that I am not going to talk about calories, food groups, pyramids or any of that stuff. It is, in the aspect that one can, theoretically, own the greatest racehorse in the world, but if one never feeds him/her, how many races is he/she going to win? (Hint: zero, because horses that do not eat do not survive, and dead horses cannot run.) Now that we’ve got that out of the way, in a move that surprises nobody, (say it with me now) it’s the same way with writing. Maybe there are some people who can put out without ever taking in, but I am not one of them.
Last night, I had a Skype chat with another writer friend, and had a file open, because we do that often, write while chatting. This time, though, I stared at my split screen, Skype on one side, Word Pad on the other, and…nope. Yes, I know these characters. Yes, I love them. Yes, I know what happens next -it’s right there in my notes- and yes, I have a plan. No, I could not make any of it happen. I punched a few keys in desultory fashion, scrolled through my Spotify playlist, whined to my friend, stared down Word Pad, and…nope.
Zip, zilch, zero, nothing, nada, nil, endless void where writing ought to be. Storytelling, even. I’d take bullet points. I got bupkis. Less than bupkis. The characters froze in place and stared back at me, their expressions conveying only a general “we thought you knew what was going on here” vibe. My reaction could best be summarized by sending over a tuxedo-clad waiter (yeah, really not moving from the food thing here) to explain to Sir and Madam that there has been a slight inconvenience in the kitchen and Chef deeply apologizes for the inconvenience.
“Slight inconvenience,” in this case, would mean that there was a raging grease fire, Chef’s only weapons a slightly damp washcloth and a bucket of what could be sandbox sand, or it could be kitty litter, but the grease fire did serve to distract from the fact that the delivery of actual ingredients for the dishes ordered (or, really, any dishes at all at this point) had not yet arrived. As in, the washcloth and maybe-sand-maybe-kitty-litter is basically what there would be at this point. I don’t think I have to point out that nobody wants a dinner of washcloth and sand and/or kitty litter. Not even if it’s rolled, burrito-style and presented with a garnish of whatever happens to be in Chef’s trouser pockets.
In a restaurant situation, this means that somebody has to go out and obtain said ingredients (okay, yes, put out the grease fire first. Always put out the grease fire first.) In a writing situation, facing a page with “well, I got nothing,” is usually a good cue that it’s time to go out and get something. Take a break. Read something that engages, whether it’s a book, an email, the back of a cereal box, whatever. Watch an episode of a favorite TV show. Take in a movie. Take a walk. (I like to go to the park and look for ducks. Ducks usually serve as wonderful creative consultants. I think it’s all the paddling.) Have a snack. Have a nap. Play with a pet. Insert old saw about drawing water from an empty well. Not going to happen. Time to get something in there, before anything else can come out.
So it was, last night. I bid my friend goodnight, saved my document and logged out. One relaxing bath and a couple of chapters later, I turned off the light, the perils of characters-n0t-my-own the last thing on my mind, ready to digest overnight. I woke up still hungry, but I have a full pantry (aka TBR shelf) to take care of that. The selection is varied, and I am only minutes’ walks from two different libraries, so if the particular flavor I want isn’t literally at hand, it’s not that far away.
Right now, I’m hungry. Yes, for lunch (which will happen after posting) but also for story, for that deep immersion in the story world, climbing into the characters’ skins and seeing what they see, feeling what they feel. I don’t want to browse. I don’t want to skim. I don’t want to nibble or sample or taste. I want the meat. I want to feast. I want to take in what I need to do what I need, not in quick bursts, but to go the distance, and, maybe, fuel somebody else’s fire.