There are days when the creative juices just aren’t flowing. I stare at the computer screen and wonder, “What now? Where do I go from here?” I just don’t know. The characters are having a hissy fit and not talking to me or each other. I have an inkling of an idea, but can’t find the words to start the scene and have it move with any sense of reality. Fiction should make sense even if it is fiction. Right?
How often does this happen? Too often for comfort.
So what do I do?
Take a break and go outside with Sarge. Throw the ball and watch him chase it. Putter in the garden. Get my hands good and dirty. Pick up the doggie doo-doo. Vacuum. I love to vacuum. Sarge loves the vacuum, too. He likes to attack it. I like to chase him with it.
Music helps. I have a binder full of CDs. When I was writing The Last Sin Eater, I listened to frogs ribbiting and croaking and a mountain stream with the faint sound of Banjos in the background (not like the ones in “Deliverance”). I listened to Big Band music from World War II when writing Her Mother’s Hope and Her Daughter’s Dream. Sometimes I need the dramatic sounds of Hans Zimmer or James Horner, or the golden oldies of the 50s and 60s. Sometimes I need silence.
Sometimes I need to talk and talk and talk until Rick’s eyes are rolling back into his head.
Sometimes I don’t want to talk. I just want to watch a movie and not think. And I have lots of movies from which to choose, a plethora of children’s movies, nature movies, dramas, BBC versions of Jane Austin classics, the entire set of Star Trek, The Next Generation and Voyager, the entire set of Twilight Zone, Cadfael, Foyle’s War, the Narnia movies, Star Wars, a collection of Christmas movies, movies on countries around the world, cities, natural wonders, American history, old movies, news movies…
Enough already. You get the idea.
I drive around town, out to farm country or the Pacific coast. There is something about being in a car that helps me come up with ideas. Even a drive to Walmart or Costco can help. I carry a notebook and pen in the car and sometimes have to pull over and write down what’s come to mind.
Reading helps, especially the Bible – which I read every day – followed by the newspaper. New news is really old news. There’s nothing new under the sun, as King Solomon said. I read magazines and books. I just finished Lost to Time: Unforgettable Stories That History Forgot by Martin W. Sandler and Fifty Plants That Changed the Course of History by Bill Laws with The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party by Alexander McCall Smith for a little lightness. Before that was The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis and a biography of Louisa May Alcott by Susan Cheever. I usually have two to three books going. I am inspired by good writing and interesting information, unique stories and those who write them.
All too often, when I’m stuck and my characters are pouting and refusing to talk, I just sigh and wonder what ever gave me the idea I could be a writer. Then I take a nap on the sofa. Or have another cup of coffee. Or watch “Castle” and think how fun it would be to write thrillers.
As Scarlet O’Hara once said: “Tomorrow is another day.”