Hitting the motherlode

Once in a while, you strike gold


Did you make any writing resolutions for 2016? Or 2017?

Have you kept to them so far? It’s a scary thought, one third of the year gone by already.

I don’t make resolutions, although this post by Susan McCorkindale on Medium gives a different take on the whole self-improvement self-deception that so many of us engage in. I printed out a list of writing goals sometime in 2015. It’s a long list; 52 items to be exact. Some I have completed, like starting a blog and finding a local writers’ group to join. That of course leads on to new goals such as make blog posts and actively participate in the group.

Despite this list, last year I found it hard to progress on my most important goals, which were 1. complete the edit of my primary WIP and 2. work on the next book.

One Sunday I washed up, folded laundry, walked around the garden. Then, I sat down and opened my notebook. It’s an A4 book covered in black faux leather, a bargain knock-off from a local supermarket. It cost £4. In it I practised sketching, wrote about my frustrations, took notes at a writers’ conference on its plain cream pages. Always in pencil.

I flicked through the pages and didn’t really read any of it in detail, but an urge to write had me reaching for my pencil. The joy of a mechanical pencil is that it is always ready. No need to sharpen. No need to delay.

I turned to a new page, thought about the fantasy novella I finished the year before, and wrote. The sequel flowed onto the page, scene after scene. I stopped to look something up on my laptop, but returned to my pencil when the flow seemed to falter. I let my creative brain have the floor and boy, did she deliver. Not on the items listed above, but something new and not consciously considered.

As artists we dream of a visit from the elusive Muse.

She is like Father Christmas or a good luck charm. We know the truth and still we want to believe. Yet the facts are that I wrote three scribbled pages that cover an entire story from start to finish, and it took at most an hour, including a little Googling time.

Now, I am a pantser. I turn reluctantly to outlining (also in my notebook, as it happens) only when I get stuck. I let characters speak and meander off the path. That is why having a complete outline is nothing short of a miracle for me.

Sometimes nothing works, and you have to try something different.

You have to take a left where you usually take the right path. In doing so, you might just stumble across a rich vein of ideas, right in front of you. For me, it was the act of writing by hand, in a book reserved for ideas.

Today when I asked myself “what happened next?” I found I knew the answer. Instead of slogging through the word mines, the gold was there on the surface, sun glinting across it, waiting to be claimed.

Tomorrow I will be back in the mines, but today is a good writing day.

Maybe the Muse visited you once? Tell me the story.

Originally published at 2squarewriting.com on January 10, 2016. Follow me there for more.

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