On brainstorming

If I could get paid to stare at the yellow wall of my living room while my laptop’s fan whirred beneath my motionless fingers, I’d be rich. Most days, I feel pretty productive, but last Friday was heavy on the wall-staring.

For the last couple of months, I’ve been working on an urban fantasy about a young woman with superpowers and the romantic and familial dramas that complicate her life even more than her regular vigilantism. It’s a project that I’ve struggled with a lot, and if I didn’t love the characters so much, I’d have probably binned it by now. My frustration with the manuscript grew all afternoon on Friday, until I was on the verge of doing something drastic like deleting the entire Scrivener file. A hard delete. No cheatsies.

That’s usually a good sign that I’d better step away from whatever I’m writing. Maybe it’s time to move on, and maybe it’s not. Maybe I just need to attack the same novel from a different angle. But I never know for sure until I’ve tried switching to a new, different project for a little while. If I miss the other story and find myself writing it in my head more than whatever I’m working on now, I go back to it.

Anyway, on Friday I was done with superheroes, but I wasn’t longing to go back to any of the other mostly-plotted or partially drafted manuscripts that are simmering away in the back of my mind. I wanted to start something fresh. I think it’s because spring is finally just around the corner, and the thick smog that covers Salt Lake City during the winter inversions has finally dissipated. This kind of weather makes me itchy, in the most pleasant way. It makes me crave change and adventure. Naturally, I wanted to create a new world, new characters, and a new challenge.

My brain, however, just wanted to sleep. I blame the cats. All afternoon, they nap in golden patches of sun on the carpet, waking up just long enough to follow the warm spots from room to room. I stared at that yellow wall, thinking hard for as long as I could and trying to come up with something interesting to write…and then gave up. Convinced I’d never have another good idea as long as I lived, I curled up on the couch next to Howler and slept the next hour away.

Tell me this doesn't make you want to go lay in the sun right now and be utterly unproductive the rest of the day.

Tell me this doesn't make you want to go lay in the sun right now and be utterly unproductive the rest of the day.

I should warn you: this is about to become a love letter. I know what you’re thinking, and no, it’s not about my cats. It’s about the other, larger life form that shares my home.

When my husband gets home from work, he always asks me to tell him all about my day. And every day, he gets more than he bargained for, because after nine hours of being in my own head and only having furry creatures to talk to, I become afflicted with a condition my mother calls “diarrhea of the mouth.” Words pour out of me at machine-gun speed, and no detail is too small to relate to whatever unfortunate soul has made the mistake of asking how my day has been. 

On Friday, the whitewater rapids that rushed out of my mouth were mostly centered around my writer’s block, and how gremlins must’ve stolen my creative spark somehow. He offered to help me brainstorm, and we started talking about old-world lore. 

BAM. Fifteen minutes into this conversation, I had the best idea I’ve had in months. My brain could barely keep up with itself. Every word out of Kelly’s mouth set two new wheels into motion, and I’ve now started plotting a new project… one I’m insanely excited about. 

Sometimes, it’s definitely worth it to take that step back and even switch projects. And man, if you’re lucky enough to have a sounding board (especially a handsome one who makes you dinner while you jabber in circles about book ideas), take advantage. One hour talking through your book idea with the right person is worth nine hours staring at the wall.