Monday, January 30, 2012

About Writer's Block

There must be different kinds of writer’s block. The worst I can imagine is not being able to come up with anything to write for days on end – egads – maybe even a whole week. Here’s what I think. If you are trying to come up with a new story and only have that blank screen staring at you, suck it up for at least an hour, the whole time playing little mind games with yourself. Look out the window and talk to a squirrel. Decide who you think the squirrel looks like. I once had a teacher who looked kind of squirrely.  Think about the squirrel in your life and talk to him or her. 
You don’t have to physically put words on the page to be writing. If you are a writer, you are writing even as you are thinking. You’re storing your little gems or germs for future use. Try another mind game. Pull on a hair on your arm and see what reaction you get. Now give that reaction to a character. Write the name of the character along with his or her reaction. Go from there. Now how can you say you have nothing and that you suffer from writer’s block if you just wrote about the tears that welled in your eyes as you watched the skin pull up from your arm when you jiggled that little hair?
There must be more than one kind of writer’s block. Maybe writers are referring to a brain fart stopping them from working on a specific scene/chapter/or plot they want to write, even though they could probably come up with a line or two on something totally unrelated. Like a squirrel. Or a monkey. I can relate to that.
My advice is to trick yourself. It is often when you are doing something you detest that great ideas pop into your head, or your characters say things and you wish you were at the computer--so put the horrible duty of washing dishes or whatever is keeping you busy aside. Some may view this as a way of talking yourself into procrastinating on household or other non-writing obligations. And it is. But so what? If it works, use it.
To me the worst chore ever, or at least right up there with cleaning a toilet, is cleaning my bedroom. I’m one who prioritizes, so the first room I clean is usually the one company would step into first. Why clean more than that if they never get past the point of entry? Plus, that is the room that will give the first impression, thus the most important. Second, I clean the next room they might pop into, if they’ll be staying awhile. The kitchen or wherever we’ll eat if they’ve come for a meal. I rate each room in this way, which means the bedroom is last. Company never goes in there, and my subconscious must know this, because I always seem to run out of energy or time before I ever get to it. On those rare occasions I feel I must clean the bedroom, I don’t accomplish much before some character in my head pulls me away. It’s almost automatic. Yeah. Don’t look under my bed.
It’s easy to shut the bedroom door and dance my way back to the computer with a clever line floating in my head.
Try it. Use your worst chore to your advantage. When that blank screen is haunting you, smile and head off to do whatever it is you hate. Trust me. You’ll be back to the computer in no time.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Bringing a first kiss into your writing

Jan, 2012
When I think of romance, I can’t help but think of the universal bliss of that first kiss –
Whether the first day of a new relationship or the fiftieth, and whether you are young or not, the rush can’t be matched by anything. The wings of excitement flutter in your stomach, tingles shoot up your arms and into your face, the lump of anticipation fixed so snugly in your throat, you’re afraid it’ll explode once you’re finally within centimeters of that tantalizing lip-to-lip experience–your first kiss!
Decade after decade, the wanna-be-kissed fantasize about it for weeks, months, and sometimes – let me die if it don’t happen soon–years before the big K. Even though each first kiss is magically unique, the excitement is universal. It doesn’t matter if it happens discreetly behind the garage, during a game of truth or dare, under the mistletoe at a dance, or in the park where you always meet up with that special someone–your palms sweat, your heart races, and you worry your breath might stink and wonder if your deodorant is still working.
But once you feel the magic, like a leaf turning from green to orange, you know you’ll never be the same.
A kiss of bliss – LB and I had walked uphill eight blocks, the shortest route to JK’s house, laughing and crunching our way through fallen leaves. A few diehard red and gold still hung in clusters from the trees, but most of them blanketed the ground and made me feel we were walking through a photograph.  Except it was real life. I could taste the brisk October air and crumble dead leaves in my hands. When LB tried to stuff the red and gold discards under the back of my jacket, I swung around and laughed. I tried to attack him with a handful, too, but he grabbed my arms and held them straight out like wings as he stepped closer to me, his chin almost touching my forehead. My stomach muscles tensed and my breath caught in my throat. I couldn’t get my smile to relax and worried he might kiss my teeth. With his face leaning toward mine, his warm breath shot currents of excitement through me. Was I standing still or shivering?
It didn’t happen.
He whispered, “I’m going to let go now, but don’t drop your arms.” My face must have shown confusion, because he said, “Do you trust me?” I nodded. His fingers released mine and, before I knew it, he grabbed more leaves and stuffed them under the neck of my shirt.  We laughed the rest of the way to JK’s house.
There, we stepped down the wooden stairs through the backyard entrance to the basement. Just inside the door, before we took the first step down to meet JK, LB steered my chin toward his, and my knees went weak. The weightlessness of being underwater flushed through me as he pressed his lips to mine. Maybe only five seconds went by, maybe five minutes, but that sensation stayed with me throughout my life. Sometimes I loan the feeling to my characters. That’s how it happened in The Curse of Zorphan Island.
I kept hearing, “You know what happened with Tara Foster’s first kiss? Yeah, um, you gotta check it out. It happened at the lake.”
How could I not explore it further?

How was your first kiss?