Anybody want a limp rubber chicken?Delle Jacobs
I vaguely remember the time about eight years ago when I wrote a newsletter article boasting that the menacing Writer's Block never troubled me. Whenever I found the words slow in coming, I had a procedure that always worked, that always opened up the window and got the breeze of creativity flowing through me once again.
It was true at the time, and for a number of years afterward. Always, no matter what happened, no matter how discouraged I got, I could always get myself going again. I had trouble understanding writers who didn't write. I suspect I even believed they probably didn't really want to write, but only wanted the dubious thrill of calling themselves writers.
I can't say exactly when the creative breeze began to blow the wrong direction. I've done a lot of pretending it wasn't so. After all, I am a writer who writes. I've got four published books out there. I'm the only author in the entire world entitled to wear three Golden Hearts. I'm a writer.
But something happened. Somewhere along the time when I wrote three of the best books the world has ever seen and nobody would buy them, I think discouragement set in, and doubt became a constant companion. Maybe I just didn't "get it", whatever "it" was. And it didn't help that the market for my stories was crumbling faster than I could put the books together.
But I'm a writer. I write. Right? So where were the words? I felt like my laptop keyboard was sucking them out through my fingertips and depositing them in some cybernetic black hole.
When I finally got up the nerve almost two years ago to quit the day job, I was so excited to finally get to do the one thing I'd wanted to do all my life, to write full time. After the newspaper. The crossword puzzle. The email. Eventually I always got down to the blank page on the computer screen. White, with cross-hatched lines delineating the margins that were supposed to hold all those words.
What words? Where were they? Maybe a Sudoku puzzle would loosen them and they'd fall out of their hidey holes. But the page stayed blank.
Discipline. That's it. That's what I needed. That's what I'd lost when I quit the day job. So I locked up my ethernet card to keep me away from email and surfing the 'net, and refused to get dressed so I couldn't go out and get the newspaper. Uhm. No words. Maybe the toilets needed cleaning.
In desperation, I hunted up that article I'd written with its proud claim, hoping I'd forgotten something I used to know.
Hot tub. Tried that.
Long walk. Yup, been there.
Chocolate, soothing tea? The chocolate shows on my hips now, but not in my writing. And the tea did nothing at all.
Take a break. Who was I kidding? That's all I'd been doing for months!
Aha! Here it was! "Whenever I can't get a mental grasp on my scene, it usually means something's wrong with it. So I lay back on the bed, close my eyes, and just let my mind free-wheel." So I lay back on the bed and closed my eyes, envisioning my hero and heroine. Giving them free rein. Giving the scene over to them.
I fell asleep. Never did figure out what they had in mind.
Well, then, incentive. I've never been one of those writers who thought I had some kind of automatic right to the words, that they ought somehow just to pour out just because I was there to put them down. I'm willing to struggle, to fight for them. Maybe it was just a bit more incentive I needed, something to just keep me at it until I got the words going again.
I did a Book in a Week challenge. Wrote for a whole nine days. My agent pleaded with me to finish the story because there was an editor who really wanted to see it. I got another week's worth done. I revised, thinking I didn't really like my heroine. That helped for another week, but then I was stuck again, and most of what I'd written before now needed to be thrown out anyway. Money, chocolate, promises of movies, trips, nothing seemed to entice me enough to get back to that steady pace that is needed to turn out a good, clean, consistent story. Even tried sex. Bad choice. It's too diverting.
But now I'm back to pounding the laptop keys like a true writing fiend, frenetically turning out page after page, and the story is getting more exciting by the day. So what happened?
Well, a little over a week ago, I went to my local chapter meeting where I admitted my desperate circumstance to a few chapter members. The next thing I knew, I'd signed up for a challenge to finish the book by the end of the year. That's 49 days to do over 200 pages.
And why does this suddenly matter so much to me? Because if I don't, I have to stand up in front of about forty women and a couple of guys, wagging my elbows as I jump about in a bobbing, jerky dance, yelling "Squawk! Awk- awk-awk-awk-awk!"
My heart couldn't take it.