Come play inside a writer's brain, scary!

We’re all time poor. What free time we once had is now eaten up by social media, online activities and binge-watching TV series. Admittedly these are choices we make, but so much of life is lived digitally now that even restricting yourself won’t free up a great deal more time.

Yet as writers, we need time to think, to play with ideas – what if my character does this or that? As I say in The Art of Romance Writing, writers are working when we’re staring out of windows.

Last week someone posted on Facebook that writers “must write every day.” Past Valerie Parv Award winner, Erica Hayes, bounced back with, “Write when you can. We’re not in prison.”

I agree. Having made a living with words since my twenties, I know life doesn’t let you write every day and you’re not a failure if you don’t.

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) finished last week. Now international, NaNoWriMo considers you a “winner” if you produce 50,000 words during November.

The worldwide success of NaNoWriMo shows that the challenge suits many writers. For others like me, it’s their idea of a nightmare. No surprises here. In a high school English class we were assigned to write a story on a set topic during the period. Most students immediately launched themselves into writing while I stared into space, dreaming up my story content.

Ten minutes from the end of the class I started writing. By then I knew who my characters were and what they were all about. I couldn’t have started writing any sooner. I still can’t. I started out as what’s called a plotter, the opposite of a pantser, writers who start putting words down before they know where they’re going. Over time and some 90 books I’ve morphed into a combination of both, plotting a little less and writing sooner while trusting my characters to help me fill in the gaps.

I still need thinking time.

A trip to America a month ago was not supposed to be work. On every flight card under “purpose of travel” I happily ticked vacation. My muse had other ideas.

In Honolulu, I soon found myself up early at the desk in my hotel room, scribbling many pages of notes for a new novel. A few pages in, I glanced out the window to the Royal Hawai’ian Hotel and Waikiki Beach beyond. Even they couldn’t distract me from the story unfolding in my mind. It’s still revealing itself to me as I write this blog back in Oz.

Yet if someone had told me I must write every day of that vacation, I doubt my muse would have co-operated. Even muses need to get out and play sometimes. Last month I wrote about filling the creative well, exposing yourself to new experiences. In Hawai’i I realised  that’s what I’d been doing in Houston.

While I laughed, talked my head off and explored with my BFFs Sherry and Laura, my muse was soaking up new input. None of it was related to the new book, and yet it was. Had I not given my brain time out to admire astronauts and butterflies, my muse may not have connected the mental dots that led to the new idea.

And when all the note taking and scribbling was done, Waikiki was still waiting.

How do you treat your muse – as a mouse on a treadmill, or a fragile resource? Do ideas come to you when you think you’re goofing off? Please share your thoughts in the box below. It’s moderated to avoid spam but your comments can appear right away if you click “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Have a happy festive season however you traditionally celebrate, and enjoy your writing in the year ahead.

Valerie

on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

I am honoured to be appointed

Australia Day Ambassador 2017

to the Gundagai NSW community

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Comments on: "First Monday Mentoring Dec 2017 – writing needs the gift of time" (4)

  1. I have a time or two during the year when I ‘play’ with ideas, let the ‘muse’ out to play; usually something comes up, a title, an opening sentence, a paragraph, a small scene, something emotional or scary (once, even a word from each letter of the alphabet – most of which got turned into stories for comps). They all get written down, played out a bit, some get turned into beat sheets, some get character profiles added, some get locations.
    Then they get put into the ‘wheel’ with a number. when one project is finished, I spin the wheel (figuratively) and take that story out of the ‘ideas’ folder and put it into the ‘drafts’ folder, along with beat sheets for each major character, a half-guessed idea of a scene outline, and a ‘feel’ for the storyline.
    How many are in the ideas folder? usually about 26 (I get nervous if there aren’t at least as many as there are letters of the alphabet). How many in the draft folder? Usually two or three, because when one is ‘complete’ and requires some distance, I can start on the next one, or I can use it as a distraction when the first one, the main WIP, is being a bit difficult. That distance helps to ‘forget’ the main work so when I come back to it, the mind is fresh (well, as fresh as it gets) and it’s easier to spot the nigglers that need to be fixed.
    It’s more fun than the writing, except when it gets close to ‘the end’ and I start dreaming of the next exciting intrigue in my life, the next affair of the story-heart.
    And a happy co-exist season to you and all your characters, Valerie.

    • As you demonstrate, there are no rules to idea generation or solving writing challenges. Building a folder of ideas is a great start and if it reassures your muse, so much the better. I’m glad that letting your muse out to play on a regular basis works so well for you. Thanks for your comments and good wishes.

  2. I love it when experts give me permission to be myself! 😍😍😍

    • Hi Grace, no permission needed or intended. I’m advocating self-acceptance, something many of us, not only writers, struggle with. Thanks for stopping by.

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