Tuesday, July 19, 2011

My Fingers Are Broken & Other Consequences

What happens when I don’t write? Random Brute breaks my fingers, shortens my iron tether, and looms over my shoulder with a mace resting on his bulging bicep until I yarf up scenes laced with blood and tears.

There’s an image for you.

In truth, I have to take breaks from writing. Not just a day or a weekend. My author-reset requires a cold reboot, usually two-weeks of something that demands physical exertion with a tangible end product.  It doesn’t happen often but it has to happen. Twice a year, my parents endure my invasion of their homestead where I repent for my teenage transgressions and makeover/reorganize a room. By the time I’m done, my body is exhausted and my brain purged of OCD thoughts about the latest WiP (Work in Progress).

Wait. Purged thoughts on the WiP? Am I nuts?

Yes. I’m the sort of crazy writer who becomes so immersed in the story, I lose sight of the 100,000-word end point. I blow past the very important “Modern Publishers Don’t Print War & Peace” marker.  125,000 words into the story, yet the protagonist is only halfway through the journey? Doh. The worst? That verbosity happens during editing. Pity my Critique Partners. Weep for them, in fact.

Time to put down the keyboard and back away slowly.

In order to find my way back to my creative center, to refocus on pacing and plot, I have to break the cycle of obsession. I have to stop writing. Like any detox program, the urge is strongest at the beginning. The WiP is still a muddle. Tangents are still being added. My brain is an over-crowded tangle of possibilities … until the first time I drop a speaker on my toe or spatter paint in my eye. Manual labor demands attention in the name of self-preservation.  There is an instant unavoidable reprimand for letting the mind wander – a bitch-slap I desperately need. 

The physical tasks often aid the mental ones.

By the time the room is done, my destructive creative cycles are broken.  The clutter of the room is gone and so is the gunk in my mind. The shelves are organized and so are my thoughts. At last, adding to the WiP is no longer the default reaction to fix the story. Like the bins of Trash and Recycle, I can finally see what to cut from the WiP to make it better.  When I hit that point, I know I’m ready to return to the keyboard.

Random Brute pats me on the head and gives me a brandy. 
Amazing how well my fingers work now.

Photo: http://en.mycartoons.de/cartoon/best-executioner


  1. Aww, your critique partners don't have it so bad. ;-) Glad you're clearing those databanks though!

  2. Reboots to clear the registry are a good thing!

  3. All hail the reboots and the Random Brutes! :D

  4. I love this post - you crack me up. You are obviously a highly creative individual. Thinking up stuff is not the problem, it's stopping thinking up more stuff, lol. (And, your crit partners get to read some fascinating stuff)

  5. Oh, Kerry, you nailed it. It's all about shushing the "more stuff" ... unless it's ways to hunt down WPV and destroy it. ;D