Wednesday, July 20, 2011

To Write or Not to Write

by Linda Robertson

This week we're talking about what happens when we don't write. Let me start with this:

I believe that there is creativity within everyone. We all have it to a different degree, and we each use this ability in our own unique way. Some are born to think up fabulous fictional stories to tell, while others just make up useful lies.

badger I once had surgery on my wrist after a car accident. Afterward, a cast covered my forearm. While visiting friends, another mutual acquaintance also dropped by and of course asked what had happened to me. Immediately, I began this story about being on the bike trail, wrecking my bicycle into the ditch where my hand just happened to plunge down into a badger hole and the damn thing tore into me. I was lucky not to get rabies.

The look on his face was priceless. Then I ‘fessed up to the truth and everyone had a good laugh.

What has that got to do with this week's topic?

Bear with me just one more moment.

Had I meant to make up an out-and-out lie, I couldn’t have done it. Over the course of my life, I’ve had people I know question me about important things and on the spot I just can’t lie. The self-guilt is far worse than bearing anyone’s wrath (I am just that merciless to myself). However, even on the fly, making up a story that I’m going to immediately expose as fraud and it’s all for the laugh, that’s different.

So what I’m saying, is writing is kind of always happening in my lil' noggin. The story may not reach paper or the screen of my computer, but creativity is a mindset that has no real off switch.

Another example. Recently, I moved. As the house has filled and the boxes emptied, the nifty massage thing for my chair found its home and my sons were anxious to get a back sat in the chair and no one said anything to me about it for days. It was plugged in, but no one was ever using it. Then it hit me: that plug in only has power to it IF the light switch above if flipped on. The boys thought it was broken and were too scared to tell me.

A-ha. Time for some fun.

I asked the elder boy, the Arteest if he'd used it. (FYI The younger boy is Future Stunt Man.) The Arteest said no. I said, "Mmm hmmm. Didn't work did it?" He acted surprised. I said, "You have to use a magic word, you know." I had him sit in the chair in question, which happened to be angled away from me slightly. I took out my iPhone and started checking messages to have my hands "moving" anyway. I told him to try the chair button.

It didn't work. "See?" he said.

"Pick a magic word," I said.

"You mean like 'please'?"

I rolled my eyes. I said, "Well yeah, that would be okay, but its rather boring isn't it? Pick something to be YOUR magic word."

He thought about it. "Okay got it. I'll use Blubber Bubblegum."

"Good one," I said. "Now say it to the controller and then try it."

As he looked at the controller and spoke, I reached out and nonchalantly flipped that switch. He pushed the control button. When it lit up, he about came out of his skin and cried, "Oh my god that is so weird!"

See? Being creative is a mindset, and it lends itself to stories as perfectly as chocolate frosting on a cake. I can set this creative switch to standby, of course. I do live in a real world where bills must get paid and errands must be accomplished and I can sit and bullshit with my pals for hours. I’m just saying I don’t need much more than a spark to fire up that creative process. In fact, flipping that switch to standby might be the harder task. Out of the blue, something will flicker and before I know it my writing fuel is burning.

Another example:


Why is that angel holding that dark cyborgish creature and why is she crying?

Did she use her power to create this creature to do her work so she didn’t have to? Did he fail? Did he succeed too well? Is she now repentant for what she’d done to him? What if she knew him before he was made into this monstrosity? What if he was her little brother? Her childhood friend? Her lover?

Maybe she sinned and he took the blame, bringing this punishment upon himself to spare her. Maybe they are both caught and she is next to have her wings torn off and replaced with metal.

The questions never stop, and answering them leads to more questions and compiling it all leads to stories.

How about this:

LaBelle-Dame-Sans-Merci, Sir Frank Dicksee

A noble knight has found a lady alone in the middle of nowhere, lost. He’s offered her his horse. But he doesn’t know what danger he is in…from her, or from her wizard lover who cast her out to use her as means to infiltrate a certain kings court. Or, is this the queen using her beauty to manipulate a knight into killing the king? Maybe the knight is a college professor who is simply at a re-enactment event, but his life is about to be totally swept up in the mystery of finding out who this lady truly is…only to find she’s a ghost he must set free, or a demon that enslaves him, or the lawyer for the student who’s accused him of improper sexual conduct….

The possibilities are endless. Writing is like being on a roller coaster that’s being built according to your thoughts instantaneously as you ride. You never know when the next drop off/turn/loop-de-loop is coming, and yet…you do. You just have to decide if this ride needs another speedy, exhilarating, thrill right here…or a hill to climb slowly while you catch your breath.

If I wasn’t writing, I’d still be thinking up stories. Standing in line at the grocery store--there's always plenty of story to work with there. Between tabloid headlines and the folks around me. Sheesh.

Sometimes, though I do get blocked. In those instances, I plug in my guitar. I think one kind of creativity can prime the gears for the others. Besides, songs are stories, too. Notes become words, and melody becomes mood. And today I’m in the mood for some old Priest. It brings back memories and those always hold great story fodder too.


  1. "Blubber Bubblegum" ~switch flick~

    Bwwahaha. Love it.

  2. Out of this whole lovely long post, I'm afraid the thing that grabbed me the most is that you said "Bear with me" right after the badger story. And I find this amusing. The kids and the magic word? priceless. You could really mess with their little minds.

  3. Love the "magic word" story - did they catch on to the trick yet?

  4. Thanks ladies! I'm not sure if they've caught on. I know they told their cousins about it. ;-D