Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Writer's Wednesday - Playing Hard to Get

This Wednesday, PHS Editor Donna Alward goes in search of new ideas in several places - including her dirty oven.

The first of the month saw me a bit conflicted. There was the celebratory side that was cheering that I had a brand new contract, and then there was the down side that realized that my editor wasn't keen on my latest ideas and I needed to come up with something different, with lots of emotional depth and something, well, fresh.

Problem is - I wasn't feeling very fresh at all.

In fact, that Friday night I was wracking my brains trying to come up with a concept until the old grey matter started to hurt. I was kind of wishing I could just hit a button and some beautiful, wonderful high concept idea would come rushing out. But nope. With the hurting brain came stress. And as many of us know...the crows of doubt absolutely FEED on stress and hurting brains.

I had to stop thinking. Or at least stop thinking for a little while.
You see, I learned long ago that sometimes the answer comes when you are not looking for it. It's that whole watched pot never boils thing...forest for the know the deal. But how do you turn off your brain, especially when it's racing, pumped up with insecurity and desperation?

Well, I thought, if the ideas were playing hard to get, then I would too. Saturday morning I got up and began cleaning the house. I made sauce in the morning and built a lasagna in the afternoon. I cleaned the oven, of all things! I worked on a knitting project and did some reading.

Sunday I did three loads of laundry and the mending and cleaned out the kitchen desk drawers and baked an apple crumble. I finished the book I'd been reading and also that knitting project. And at the end of it all, I had the seeds of a new book idea.

Sometimes you have to let go and let things come to you rather than go searching with a big club, that's all. I don't know if I'm one of those vulnerable to the power of suggestion, but I do know that when I free my mind, the answers will come. I've had it happen time and time again - though usually it doesn't require the desperate measure of obsessive cleaning. Yuck!

What about you? How do you get your answers?

Donna's next book is her novella, A Bride for Rocking H Ranch included in Montana, Mistletoe, Marriage. Check out an excerpt here!


  1. I do this -- I call it "Rebooting My Brain." When my computer gets all hung up, I shut the whole thing down and count to thirty. It works for the brain, too.

    Although the last reboot was a doozie -- it took six seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on DVD before the brain came back on.

    Cleaning the oven never occurred to me :-)

  2. I just did this today--total creative avoidance--and seeds of ideas came to me regarding a plot problem. I cleaned, did laundry, shopped, took advantage of the phone, and organized my work again....

    I'm a cook so that did happen today.... thanks for making it real!

  3. Hi Donna. I can relate to the cleaning. Spring clean the house - spring clean the mind! I also like to take my dogs out for long walks - I'm sure that if they talked to each other they would mutter something like "Phew that's the 3rd walk today. She must be trying to plot out a book! Let's hopes she thinks of something soon because I don't know about you but my paws are killing me." Take care. Caroline x

  4. I take the pressure off by deciding not to do it at all. *Then* my brain springs into action. The more I tell myself I "must", the less I get.


  5. I think I'm the odd one out here, because switching off doesn't work for me. I've tried, been there, done that. I usually find that if I write in longhand, curled up in a corner of the sofa, ideas begin to flow. Not all good ones, but I end up with pages and pages of possibilites, and when I type them up later, sorting and deleting as I go, I begin to see possibilites.

  6. Margaret - whatever works, I say! I just found the more I tried, and came up empty, the more panicked I felt.

    Do you know I cannot write novels long hand, but I can't write poetry on the computer? it has to be ink and paper.

    One of my most memorable "story fixes" was a problem in a book plaguing me and the answer came during a glass of wine and an episode of Battlestar Galactica. It was the one hour I looked forward to every Saturday night, and as soon as I stopped thinking about the problem, the answer came!

  7. Every book -- and apparently every idea -- is different. But I have great success with washing my hair. In the sink, not the shower. If I'm in the shower my head is right side up. In the sink it's upside down and the ideas flow to the top of my head. Or something.

    Good luck, Donna!

  8. Cleaning, showering, but driving definitely is the best way for me. If I could drive from here to the northern border of my state, I'd probably have the book finished by now. Nothing gets my characters talking like driving. It's one of the best parts of my RWA meeting(along with the interaction with other writers, of course), the driving to and from the meeting site w/o children to distract me. I turn on the radio or pop in a CD and turn the characters lose.