Friday, May 27, 2011

Idle Thoughts While Waiting for the AC to Kick Into Gear

The best laid plans of mice and men... I never had much interest in what mice were thinking, much less what they planned to do. Perhaps that's one reason we have cats. But that's the phrase that came to me from some back nook of my noggin.

There are so many things that cross one's mind when plans don't work out quite as expected. For example, I arrived home today — easily the hottest day of the year, topping 90 degrees not a dozen days after it was in the mid 40s — to discover that the air conditioning wasn't working. It's built into the same system that powers the furnace that went out last winter and which might be older than me.

Apparently, in addition to my oh so necessary jobs of mowing the lawn, cleaning the gutters, buying diapers, and finding some time to play with the cutest, most loving and loveable girls in the world, I also need to figure out how to deal with a system that's giving up the ghost right before its season debut. And still we write.

It seems that nothing will ever be easy, not even three-day weekends. I realize this sounds whiny. It is whiny. But so it goes.

As writers, it's easy to become despondent. We struggle to gain a foothold in the world, to get some sort of acknowledgement that our work is valued by readers. Heck, I cherish a rejection letter I received some twenty years ago that called the characters in one of my short stories "wispy" because it at least acknowledged that there was an interesting story; it just needed more work.

So that's what we do. We plug away, we edit, we read, we write and rewrite and rewrite some more until we're so sick of these characters that we consider creating a new storyline in which some crazed individual hires a hitman to whack the characters from the other story. Or maybe that's just me; I am from Jersey, after all.

Yes, it pays the bills, but it also keeps us sane — or it's our obsessive-compulsive means to keep the world in order and scare away the monsters. For me, it's the best way to know that I'm alive and making a minor mark in the world.

How about you? How important is writing in your life?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Way Things Work

Recently, I've had a run of bad luck. Not terrible luck. I didn't lose a family member or find a lump. There were no insects crawling through my nasal cavity or strangers in my bed. I'm talking missed train connections, minor disappointments, relatives venturing close to Benjamin Franklin's deadline ("House guests, like fish, stink after three days...") These are just the way things work when life is moving from day to day. And things need to keep moving if you're going to keep a reader's interest.

Indeed, when you write, these things can make all the difference. You might say, bad luck is the new black. Ok, maybe you wouldn't say that, exactly, but without a good deal of tension, your story might get a little ... well, constipated.

So, if you find yourself a little (writers') blocked up, why not shove a little writing laxative into your system. By that I mean, do whatever you need to do to get your ideas moving along. Change chapters. Write from a new perspective. Add a character you know you won't keep. Draw a map of your character's neighborhood. Send your character's boss a nasty letter.

What comes out may not be worth keeping, but at least it's out. And if the ideas that had been in the way were already a little stale, what comes next might be the real deal.

What do you do to keep your writing flowing free and easy?