Thursday, January 12, 2012


 Work on the volcano/demon story continues.  I've worked through most (but not all) of the large questions of the story, and have moved on to Serious Outlining Phase.  Still some character work to do with the villain, but I remain optimistic at the moment about my chances of completion, and the story as a whole.

Distraction remains a problem. I keep coming up with new ideas to try to get myself to 1)settle down, 2) start writing, 3) keep writing.  Over the years I've been writing, I've come up with a dozen ideas to get myself to sit down and concentrate.  But no technique works for long.

In that way, my mind is kind of like the Borg. I think up one way to avoid distractions, and it works for a while. But soon, the brain develops resistance, and then suddenly starships are exploding and I'm back to watching YouTube videos of baby birds.


That's a form a flightiness, but for me, it's usually stubbornness that gets in the way of the creative process. For one, I can get very, very attached to particular words or phrases.  You know, the ones that appear late at night when I've had several cups of tea* and too little sleep.  They can be very lovely words, but when I catch myself wanting to keep a scene in because of one or two great sentences, it's time to let go.

And then there are those scenes that just don’t work.  I do undergo several stages of outlining, and can get very used to the way a certain scene fits in the story, and am thus reluctant to let it go, even if it's not working outt.  It took me an embarrassing amount of time to realize that if I have trouble writing a scene, it generally means the scene is boring, and that there is room for improvement.  If I'm not excited to write a scene, why should it even be in there?   But sometimes I've been working on the scene long enough that I can't envision any other way for the story to progress.  In those cases, I make myself list the goals of the scene.  Usually, there's only one or two, and with a little brainstorming, I'm awash in new ideas for how the scene could change and improve. 

Despite those solutions, I still have problems with stubbornness.  I can be especially slow to adopt new ideas and techniques, no matter how rational they might seem on paper.  But eventually, I do get it.  So what's taking so long?

Sometimes I visualize my subconscious as being made up of complex steampunk-style machinery.  When that excellent new idea is rejected by my stubborn conscious brain, it gets tossed behind the hamsters on wheels running my daily thoughts and goes into a little bucket.  The bucket slowly disappears up into that complex machinery.  There, I can only assume that it has to progress through some lengthy path filled with lots of bells and whistles and gears and pulleys. And possibly more hamsters on wheels.

Finally, out of nowhere, the idea will reappear, and suddenly it will seem the most fantastic thing ever.  And then I'll start exclaiming about this idea, and my friends will be all, yeah we told you about that six months ago.

There's probably a lot of ideas rattling around up there right now, making their way slowly through my subconscious, and taking up the important brain machinery that would otherwise allow me to recall where I put my keys.

Not  that stubbornness is an entirely bad thing.  It keeps me going when I'm down, and when I want to give up because a deadline is only 18 days away.  Nope, my stubborn brain says.  Can't give up now.  You want this too much.

Maybe it's not such a bad thing after all.

*Tea is definitely my writing brew of choice.  I discovered long ago that anything over one glass of wine = terrible writing and zero ideas.  It was rather comforting to know that I wasn't going to end up like Samuel Taylor Coleridge, writing my most famous work only after a drug binge**.
**Not actually comparing self or writing skills to Coleridge


  1. LOL, I've always thought stubborness is as much a virtue as it is a vice.

    Keep at it. You're almost there. :)

  2. Any wine at all = me asleep. So it's definitely not good for writing. Coffee, on the other hand... with some hot chocolate mix stirred in. Mmmm.

    You can't be a writer and not be stubborn. It's not for people who give up easily. But I do get very stuck, especially in plot ideas. I also get stuck in perfectionism, which is like the opposite of stubbornness because I throw stuff out left and right!

    I'm sure you've heard the "murder your darlings" advice (Stephen King says it in his memoir but I don't know if he originated the phrase). Anyway, I actually keep a document in Scrivener called "Darlings," and I put my favorite lines and snippets of scenes in there when I have to cut them. I rarely use them again, but that way I feel like I've saved them from oblivion.

  3. Wine does not place me in a very good writer's mindset. Rum, on the other hand, while listening to a random selection of Opeth tunes, leads me to some of my most expressive---and, sometimes, as I've discovered the very next day, most incomprehensible---passages of prose. Coleridge would have most certainly accepted my Facebook 'friend' request.


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