This morning I should be writing. I want to write. There’s a novel that’s dying to leap onto the page. I’m sitting here in the kitchen at table. A sky is beautiful outside. The birds are singing. My pen is poised over the paper ready to strike at any moment. And. . .
Not one single, solitary thing.
The pen and paper repel each other like oil and water, together in proximity but not in spirit. I can see the characters. I know the beginning and the ending. I even know most of the middle which for me is often the trickiest part. But the words won’t come. I’m stuck in quicksand and don’t know exactly where to begin. So how can I work my way out of this momentary lapse into writer’s block? It’s obvious the current path I’m on isn’t working. Time to change course a bit, I think.
I read about a trick some years ago in which a well published author suggested mentally opening up your character’s medicine cabinet. What do they have hidden in there and why? Not having a medicine cabinet in my home, I’ve modified that trick somewhat. I often dig through their junk drawer. You know the one I mean. That one drawer in the kitchen that’s crammed full of trinkets and what-nots that no one can exactly remember acquiring. There’s a box of matches in there from a long ago vacation to the mountains and a light bulb for over the stove. You find a bottle opener which used to play your college team’s fight song but now it only putters out a few miserable notes. And my personal favorite, mismatched birthday candles from parties past, leftovers from an eight piece packet bought for a six year old’s cake. The items are endless and there’s a story for each one. A uniquely individual story that helps paint a picture of who your character truly is.
Today, I have decided to let my mind wander a bit further. Thinking back to this past weekend when I was cleaning out some boxes in my garage, I decide to repeat the exercise with my character. The old box of photos she finds. A box full of books, very technical manuals from the age long before internet surfing. And last, but certainly not least, a Hawaiian floral shirt in vibrant orange and yellow.
It may be that I never use any of this. But it provides an important back story for my character and more importantly it gives me an opening with which to begin writing again. For me, this little trick works wonders. So please pardon me while I go and explore why this uptight teacher has a grass skirt hidden away in the back of her garage. I’m sure there’s a story in there somewhere.