Before I go on, I want to direct you to my For Parents page. I’ve had some juicy ideas here for parents since I started my blog, and now I will be adding a copy of my monthly newspaper column called READ THIS!, about how parents can help their children at home build literacy skills. So click on over and check it out! If you haven’t already subscribed to my blog, you can do so now. See that little blue button over there (head nod to the right)? Yep, that one. Click and subscribe so you don’t miss all the good stuff. And thank you!
And now, to change the scene…
So I was flip-flopping between reading the awesome feedback I got from my critique partners on my latest picture book draft, and revising and editing my second READ THIS! article when I found myself going blurry eyed sitting at my desk, starting at my computer blankly. For a really long time. Rereading ad nauseam, but not rewriting. Does this ever happen to you?
Here I am contemplating at my “normal” work area:
Usually I find this a comforting place to write. It’s quiet, relatively speaking. It’s bright, mostly. It’s away from the hubbub of our house, for the most part. And it has all the writing tools I need, and then some. But now and then, (especially now) something happens to my brain and it just, well, sort of…stops working for me. It’s like I’m in one of those old Flinstones cartoons where Fred is racing to get home in his oh so sleek caveman car, running his feet into the ground, and the same scenery keeps flashing by every few seconds. As hard as he tries, he doesn’t really seem to be going anywhere.
When I snap out of it – which can take an hour, or sometimes in an especially dense state, a whole day – I realize that sitting in my little green office chair is stifling my mind and I have to get out of there. Quickly!
Today I was reading a manuscript about a cat and got into a cat mood. So I – get this – printed out my article. On real paper. Grabbed a pencil. Remember those? And headed downstairs to lie on my hardwood living room floor, next to the sliding glass door, where the sun shone in making the temperature in that spot about 8 degrees warmer than the rest of the house. Mmmm…delicious. One of my cats stretched out next to me, sharing the sun.
And guess what? In 15 minutes I cut the necessary 100+ words of my article and had revised and edited, ready to submit to my editor. It was like magic!
Oftentimes my change of scenery consists of walking across the street and onto the little path through the woods. It poured yesterday, and I was still lingering in that snuggle up at home feeling (which I did last night after helping my son with his homework and watching Merlin). Occasionally I’ll get in my car and go somewhere else. Maybe to another spit of woods, or to an overlook nearby. Sometimes I just walk to the end of my dirt driveway and back. Slowly, sniffing the grapes, and listening to the birds. The point is, I change the scene, just like a good story has well-timed and necessary scene changes. Imagine a story that didn’t go anywhere? Okay, there are a few classics. Anyone remember Waiting for Godot? Or the movie, “My Dinner with Andre”? – two of my favorites as a teen. But for the most part, we want movement. Change. Action. The unexpected when we’re reading. And we must keep that in mind as we write – both for our stories and for our sanity.
Life Lesson #12: The next time your character is stuck in a rut, spinning her wheels, or you seem to be reading the same line in your work over and over again as if it’s an on a ferris wheel, or you are at home arranging the spices and don’t know what to do with yourself…move! Go somewhere else. Drop everything and get thee to another scene (a healthy one, mind you). I promise you you’ll feel different (hopefully better) and your brain will reset itself.
Check out Melinda Long’s adventurous book about a little guy who sure knows how to shake things up when he jumps on the “change of scene” bandwagon! (Click on the image for a link to Melinda’s webpage).
How about you? Leave a comment about where you go or what you do when your wheels are spinning.