Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Lacks Guidence

I think that should be the title of my blog today because I've now started it and deleted it and started again three times. It seems I don't know what to write without a guiding command.

Sometimes it's that way when working on the books too. Usually you have a plan and a plot and in my case an idea of the end. But some days you don't know where a scene is going to go. You may think this is a good thing - "Ah freedom" - but it sucks. It's like driving on soft sand: it's hard to get anywhere, and the harder you press the gas the deeper your tires sink in.

I've known that subconsciously for quite some time but I've only recently noticed it on a conscious level. Suddenly the production line bogs down, the ideas grind to a halt, and it seems far more imperative that I wash my car than finish the chapter. I used to think something strange was happening - but now I can take a look at my position in the story and invariably I'm at one of those blank moments - where my one page synopsis says something like - the heroes find the treasure. Great words for a synopsis - they make it short and sweet - make your agent and editor think you know what you're doing and have it all plotted out. Trouble is you no WHAT happens, but you don't know HOW. And now you have to stop and think.

I don't like thinking. It gives me a headache - I pretty much thought I was done with it after high school and was never very much good at it to begin with. I like doing. But if I haven't figured out HOW the characters will DO any particular thing I actually have to stop and figure it out now and that means time to think even less.

What? Think even less? Yes for me, thinking less is better. In fact if I'm not thinking at all I usually do my best work. So when the writing bogs down and I have to think something up its time to get my mind of off what I'm trying to think of.

Cue the Dredd Pirate Roberts saying: "You have a truly dizzying intellect."

It's true so here are some of my ways to think by not thinking.

  • Wash the car,
  • Walk the dog,
  • Swing a golf club,
  • Play a mindless video game where you get to blow stuff up,
  • Try to figure out the stock market (Ha!)
  • Try to figure out how the Eagles missed the playoffs,
  • Try to figure out why I moved in September and yet I'm still sleeping on a mattress on the floor, (Oh yeah, putting the bed together requires thinking)
  • watch The Wrath of Khan... "Khan!"Eat a bowl of cereal - Apple Jacks are great thinking food - all the crunching you hear inside your head drowns out the outside world just like in that commercial,
-and, when all else fails, as it usually does,
  • Run the shower but don't get in, just lie on the bathroom floor listening to the water and staring up at the ceiling and watching the room fill with steam until finally, eventually, it comes to you.

And that's the other crazy thing - it never feels like I actually think anything up, either the idea pops in there or it doesn't. Maybe writer's block is when the ideas stop popping in for an extended period. Guess the hot water bill will be through the roof if that happens. But in the mean time - at least I know how the heroes find the treasure.

Happy New Year and Good Writing,



Rebecca Cantrell said...

Glad to hear that you've added Apple Jacks to your pantry. They compliment the dry blueberry muffin mix nicely.

When I'm stuck, I research and research and then eventually I have to go drive and pick up my son and the idea comes to me in the car and I have to repeat it over and over lest I forget it before I can write it down. Maybe I should skip the research and just get in the car first...


Thank, Graham, for making me feel slightly less nutty.

Graham Brown said...

We're all nuts. Just good not to be nuts alone.

Meredith Cole said...

Driving in soft sand is the best metaphor for plotting a novel that I've ever heard, Graham. I like to go dig in the dirt (extra points if I actually plant something) when I'm stuck.

Gabi said...

When you run out of diversionary tactics, Graham, try washing the dog and walking the car.

You do indeed have a dizzying intellect and a lot of good ideas I'm going to borrow.

lil Gluckstern said...

Why is it that so many brilliant inventive people-um-don't spell so well? Or maybe it was on purpose to reflect your need to flounder about a bit? Guidance is spelled with an "a." but then again, you are the writer, and I'm just your humble reader with a twitchy eye for spelling. I like your book.

Graham Brown said...

Hey Lil Gluckstern - Thanks for liking my book - honestly I can't spell for toffee as my dad likes to say. Don't know why - I think it has something to do with fuzzy logic - which is a computer term that means something to do with solving problems non-linearly - according to wikipedia - "it deals with reasoning that is approximate rather than fixed and exact."

I think writers have to deal in fuzzy logic because there is no perfect sentence or paragraph or character or story. And even if you started with one - it would have to change along the way after being interacted upon by all the other moving parts. If my mind required stuff to be perfect before I moved on - I would never get past the third chapter because so much changes along the way.

Usually the best you can hope for is to end up with something really good that somewhat approximates what you were going for in the first place. So if my brain is wired that way - its also wired to figure guidence with an "e" is approximately as good as guidance with an 'a'.

Just my two cents on the subject, but like you I've thought about it for a long time.

All the best,