Wednesday, August 4, 2010
When the Dam Breaks
What kind of creatures are we? Okay, we homo sap, but we writers in particular. What is this drive to look at things and imagine if only they were “different”, “stronger”, “if only they made sense”?
When my first son was little, I used to put him in the baby carriage and go out for an hour or two long walk, to clear my head. Since we lived at the edge of downtown, this meant walking past coffee shops, going into bookstores, crossing the park. I have no idea what normal people do or think about in this situation. We are all, alas, tragically, caught in our own minds. For me, I’d see a person in the corner, and immediately a story would attach to him. I’d walk past the lighted windows of a Victorian and imagine the interior, and imagine the parties that took place there long ago. I could no more stop myself than I could stop breathing.
Now I don’t consciously base my characters on people or situations I see, but I do spend a great amount of time daydreaming about people I’ve met/seen. I spend a great deal of time well... not quite making up stories about them, but sort of “seeing the stories around them” which are always, btw, bigger and brighter than real people’s stories, somehow. I spend a lot of time listening to conversations. I think this is part of the reason I like diners so much. I’ll sit there, sipping my coffee and ten or twenty real people – other people always seem more real than I am, somehow – have conversations around me. I will confess I also read a lot of bios – from famous people and self-published by Joe Schmoe alike. And again, I don’t base my characters on any of this. Not consciously. But things as it were fall in the hopper. And the hopper is where character and story brews.
Sometimes I can tell where an incident/description/character came from. Like... the tv in Dipped, Stripped and Dead. Sometimes even I couldn’t guess. The characters arrive in my head. They talk their own language.
So... apropos what am I telling you that? Well, I don’t know how the rest of you are and I know even less how non-writers are, but I know for a fact after a while, my well runs dry. If I haven’t had time to read a lot and even more importantly, if I haven’t been out and away from the computer enough, I can’t seem to write. I’ve been feeling that way lately. It manifests as day dreaming about going away for a weekend – usually our big, expensive vacations are in Denver for a weekend – and going to museums and parks and gardens and the amusement park (which is almost as good as diners for people watching.)
It’s probably a good thing that I’m going to NASFIC this weekend. However, the reason I’m writing about this at all is that I realized I have to take either the laptop or the eee.
Now, it’s entirely possible that I’ll take these and never write. Just be too busy with NASFIcky stuff to write. In fact, this is highly likely.
However, when the pressure has built to this point, my experience is that if I go away – weekend, con, etc. – the first day I am too fried to do anything. And then the second day I wake up with whatever was blocking me removed and the story trying to pour out.
I’ve written outlines/chapters on: hotel note pads; napkins; the back of receipts; my arm and (the outline of what became DST) on the back of a fast food bag for the happy meal one of the kids had eaten.
Do you have similar experiences? What’s the weirdest thing you ever found yourself compelled to write on? What breaks your “not quite block”? Do you prepare for the break? Or do you have to trick your subconscious into believing you’re not expecting it?