I was at Home Depot the other day. I love that place! I mean, sure it’s stereotypical ***insert hardware store-lesbian hookup place joke here*** but there’s something incredibly appealing to me about a Home Depot, or an Ace Hardware, or Menards. It isn’t the power tools, or at least it’s not just the power tools. No, I think what it really comes down to is the sense of potential I feel when I’m surrounded by the raw materials and tools it takes to create something new.
I feel the same way about writing, especially when I’m starting out on a new story. My favorite part of the process is when the concept has bubbled up in my brain and I’m working out the plot and the characters. The enjoyment starts before I’ve even begun to put (digital) pen to (virtual) paper to start the actual narrative. The best part is that the tools and the materials are always with me. I don’t have to go to a store to get them, I can sit down and start crafting right away.
Sure, the creation process may slow down a bit for research, but no creative process is complete without reference materials. Whether it’s photos for a sketch, schematics for a building project, or good old background information on stellar phenomena, it’s part of the process that I love. It must be the librarian in me, but research feels like I’m building the strong foundation upon which everything else is built.
Then there’s the development of the structure. I like an outline, though I don’t write religiously according to it and my outlines tend to be very loose. I also tend to deviate from my roadmap to explore interesting little side trips that come up while I’m doing the actual writing. I can’t start writing without knowing where I plan to end up; I have an absolute horror of getting lost, but that’s a topic for another post.
Once the roadmap has been developed, it’s time to set out. I love writing and feeling the story take shape beneath my hands is one of the most gratifying experiences ever. It goes swimmingly for the first third of the story. The beginning is fantastic, the characters are taking shape, there’s an obstacle for them to overcome and they do! And the characters start feeling an attraction for each other, and maybe they’re falling in love. Then the middle of the book comes along and things grind to a stop.
So what does this mean? For me, it means that I love starting projects, which is really great and also kind of terrible. I currently have four stories under various stages of construction, and those are the ones for which I’ve only started the narrative. That doesn’t include the four others for which I’ve started noodling out the concept. The problem isn’t writer’s block, quite the opposite. My biggest obstacle to productivity is the lure of a new project. The shiniest and most exciting ones are the projects that have just appeared on the horizon. They have an allure that is very hard for me to resist. Sure, I come back to the old projects and pick them up after I’ve gone and poked at the new one for a while, but there’s always room for more newness.
I’m only now starting to try ways of dealing with this compunction. I have enough story ideas to keep me going for the next decade, and I definitely don’t want to cap the fount of ideas, but I need to focus on what’s on my plate. I can’t be going looking for more buffets while the food I already have cools in front of me.
A big help has been a deadline. Even if they’re only self-imposed, I find there’s nothing like an impending deadline to help me focus. The other thing that helps is the establishment of a routine. Getting back into the writing routine has been difficult of late. My home circumstances have changed and I’m in a new relationship, and there are now children in the house. There are all sorts of new challenges and trying to figure out how to nurture a new relationship in the midst of learning how to live with kids has been a lot to wrap my head around. Life has a way of happening, no matter how inconvenient it might be, and life is really good right now.
I’ve established my routine, and I’m doing my best to stick to it. If I can stick to one hour a day of writing-related activities on weekdays and two hours a day on weekends, I should be able to finish the first draft of one of my pending projects in just a few months. Then I will reward myself by noodling on a completely new story before going back and completing one of the other patiently-waiting stories. All I need to do now is make sure I don’t get too distracted by something shiny.
Like that one over there…