Monday, February 7, 2011

Stuck? Never Say 'Whoa' In A Tough Spot!

I spent the weekend writing. Not unlike thousands of other writers out there who have regular jobs to pay the bills.

We then write in our "after hours" which, for me, often means marathon hours on my days off, spent writing. I hate to put this confession on paper, but... (big breath - OK, here goes) I have a borderline obssesive/compulsive personality (please note this is a self-imposed diagnosis, and in no way were the words spoken to me by a paid professional). Anyway, this amounts to me setting up goals for myself, one of which is to write a minimum of 1000 words per day on each of my days off, and 500 on each of my "work" days. I recently realized that I am obsessive about this because:
  1. I keep a little day calendar at my writing desk, in which I mark the number of words I have written each day, as well as a running total for the manuscript. No one sees this but me, but I feel compelled to carry on with this and shamed when I don't reach my numbers. In fact I'm tempted, just once in awhile, to pad the numbers - by now you can see the obsessiveness...
  2. I feel a moment of panic when, during a rewrite, the word count drops for the day (Sheesh! Even I think this is wierd.)
  3. I often carry on writing long after my energy has waned/ideas have gone to sleep (and so should I)/ or I have missed other important deadlines like mealtime preparation. (Hamburger doesn't cook itself, ya know.)
So, of course, some of my writing is forced. (No kidding, you say?). BUT! - (Big 'but' there, not unlike the one I am growing while I spend all those hours sitting at my computer) this past weekend, I revisited the worthy advice given to writers by other writers everywhere, and that is - Give. It. A. Rest.
"But what about my word count?" my Primitive brain whines.
"No good, unless they are worthy words," my Override self cautions.
"The story must go on!" Primitive orders.
"And so it will, but for now, do something else. It's not giving up - it's taking a little side trip or two. Fresh eyes and thoughts stimulated by something else will give you those worthy words," Override declares.

It was true. I was stuck. Stuck in a nifty plot problem, but one that I could see no way out of. No amount of typing was saving me. I put my computer in sleep mode and put on some rockin' music. I ate chips and dip. I brushed my cats. I worked out on the elliptical. I sat in my hot tub. I watched a movie. I read several chapters in a book that had nothing whatsoever to do with my genre. And I missed my word count for the day.

More importantly, as I slept that night, the resolution for the plotting problem came to me with a great twist. And the worthy words came effortlessly the next morning. Side trips are necessary tributaries of the overall journey.