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Palmolive as a writing aid

June 14th, 2011 · No Comments · Blog

The harder I try to think about what to write, the more of a slog it becomes. (This is as true for blogging as it is when working on my novel.) I used to sit down at the keyboard and try to force something out of my empty head down through my fingers. It was invariably painful, and the deletion percentage was way too high.

I’ve developed a new approach in recent months. I think really hard about the next chapter, outlining a few key ideas or goals for it. Then I stop. Somewhere deep in the crevices of my brain, the seeds take hold and begin to germinate. They sprout and reappear to me, almost fully conceived, later when I’m not thinking about the book. It’s like the advice I used to hear when I was young about finding a girlfriend: she’ll show up as soon as you stop looking. Maybe writing, like women, senses—and dodges—desperation.

I find washing dishes seems to call the ideas out particularly well. I can’t even count how many times I’ve been standing there with my hands immersed in warm soapy water and suddenly realized the next chapter just played itself out to me. Then I’ll talk it through with myself, hearing more of the dialogue, fleshing out more of the details. By the time I get back to the computer, it will often stream right out.

It’s a slow process, to be sure. I’m jealous of the writers who can pound out 90,000 words in a month. I’m on the snail’s pace compared with that. But then again, I have a full-time job and a little boy to play with when I get home. So it’s not realistic to think I could ever just crank out a full-length novel in 30 days.

I’m nearing the end stages of the first draft of my latest project, and while I can’t wait to be done with it on one hand, I’m savoring the time I have left to create the lives of my characters. The creative process certainly doesn’t end when the first draft is done, but after that it’s different. It’s more of a reshaping then. Unless, of course, I need to scrap certain parts and start over, which is always a possibility.

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