Friday, July 29, 2016

A Blindfold, a Leap, and a Smile

I just started writing three new books.
I picked up a pen and notebook – I was feeling really old school – and I wrote the opening pages to three completely new, completely different middle grade novels.

Now, I'm already super busy. Between my three kids and my job and my writing and my author stuff, I don't have a lot of extra time. So why in the world would I jump into writing not one, not two, but three new books?
Well, pick your metaphor. To shake off the dust. To get the blood flowing. To rekindle the spark. To find the magic.

You see, I was at a bit of an artistic crossroads. I'm just wrapping up the rough draft of one novel, and sharpening my knives to begin revising. We recently finished final edits on my next published book (SCAR ISLAND, January 2017: cover reveal HERE). And I've been busy doing some outlining/mapping/groundwork for a series I plan to start writing this fall. Like I said, I'm busy. I was at a lull, and feeling a little overwhelmed. A little hemmed in by deadlines and targets and calendars.
My imagination was getting a little itchy, and I wanted to scratch it. My mind wanted to do some exploring, some discovering, some no-stakes playing around in the land of stories. So that's what I did.
I'd had a few ideas bouncing around in my head, waiting for their turn to come out into the world. I'd been putting them off, busy with all my “have-to's.” No more, I said. Let's open up a window and let some fresh air in.

I gave myself some ground rules before I began: No second-guessing. No worrying about the next chapter or next scene. No stress about getting it right. No worries if the stories went nowhere and died on the page.
There was no commitment, no pressure, no obligation.

Starting a story is so fun. You get to choose, from almost infinite possibilities, the exact starting point. You get to form a character out of the dark clay of your whimsy and breathe life into them. You get to try on a voice and see if it fits the telling; you get to plant the seed of an idea and see if it sprouts in the soil you gave it; you get to dream, and then move tenderly beyond dreaming into creating.
You get to close your eyes, imagine a world, and then clear your throat and start singing it.
I didn't outline. I didn't do any character sketches or plot maps or protagonist interviews. I didn't look down the road and worry about where the story was going. I just held each story idea in my head for a moment, took a breath, and began telling. I leapt in with both feet, blindfolded. 

It was awesome.
I know the humble pages I wrote may go nowhere. In one of the cases, I'm sure they'll go nowhere (isn't it weird how an idea can feel so alive and promising in your mind, and then just lay there on the page like a gutted catfish?). Even the ideas that have that glow and spark in them will almost certainly have to be reworked, rewritten, reimagined.
But that's okay. That's great and exciting, actually. And it's also tomorrow's job.
Today, I got to play in pure possibility. And that's important sometimes. I highly recommend it.

If you're stuck in a stubborn project, or just wrapping up a troubling tome, or casting about for inspiration that won't show itself, or overwhelmed by work or writing or life or all of the above, that's my prescription for you: start telling a story. Or three, even.
Don't worry about finishing a story. For god's sake don't think about writing a whole book. Don't even worry about telling a story well. That's tomorrow's job.
Just take that deep breath.
Tie on that blindfold.
And start playing. 

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