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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

New Book Update: Sputtering On


Coaxing my mind to shift gears

Coaxing my mind to shift gears

When I switch from one stage to another in the writing process, I sputter like an old engine that’s not firing all cylinders.

At the start of the year, I struggled to start reading my (previously abandoned) novel. But once I coaxed my mind to shift gears, I found my reading rhythm and chugged along.

My January journal entries include “Hard to stop reading,” “I can see where I over-explain” and “Love the Foxworth subplot.”

My final entry for the reading stage was on Friday, January 24 “Finished reading the first time through and I do love it.” I should have known that my writing process would stumble the next day.

On Monday, January 27, my entry was “I didn’t know what to do next, so I did nothing.” This was not strictly true; I had developed plan before I started reading:

  1. Read with loving eyes
  2. Dreamstorm possible new scenes and modifications to existing scenes
  3. Play around with new, modified and existing scenes on Post-it Notes to find a new structure (at the level of scenes)
  4. Draft new scenes and insert into existing chapters
  5. Rewrite to incorporate modifications into existing chapters
  6. Revise looking for places to delete over-explained material with the goal of significantly reducing word count

According to the plan, the next step was dreamstorming. I’ve dreamstormed for years. I teach students in my Entering the Flow class how to dreamstorm. It’s fun and easy. But on January 27, I believed I didn’t know how to do it.

Transition Amnesia

stumblingI seem to experience a strange sort of amnesia between stages. Part of this, I know, is inertia; a body at rest stays at rest and a writer not writing stays not writing.

But there’s a little more there, a grain of uncertainty jamming my mental gears, compliments of the Saboteur I’m sure.

On January 3, when I started reading, it was like I’ve never read my writing before. When I recovered my balance, I loved the reading stage.

On January 27, when the reading was done, it was like I’d never dreamstormed before. When I remembered the clustering technique I’ve suggested to countless students and clients, voila, my imagination kicked in.

I’m close to finishing the dreamstorming, and if history repeats, it’ll be like I’ve never before used Post-It Notes to see which new scenes really work and how existing scenes might be moved or deleted. When it’s time to start drafting, it’ll be like I never drafted a scene before, and so on.

It’s a good thing Sarah Bareilles has got my back.

Sarah’s Support

On two separate occasions, once at the start of my reading stage and on January 28, the day after I wrote “I didn’t know what to do next, so I did nothing,” Sarah Bareilles appeared on TV singing “Brave.”

The first time she was on the People’s Choice Awards and the second time she was on the Grammys. I know a lot of people saw and heard her, but she appeared on my TV to remind me to get moving.

I think I’ve got the message from the Divine now. My plan needs to be amended to:

  1. Listen to Sarah Bareilles sing “Brave”
  2. Read with loving eyes
  3. Listen to Sarah Bareilles sing “Brave”
  4. Dreamstorm possible new scenes and modifications to existing scenes
  5. Listen to Sarah Bareilles sing “Brave”
  6. Play around with new, modified and existing scenes on Post-it Notes to find a new structure (at the level of scenes)
  7. Listen to Sarah Bareilles sing “Brave”
  8. Draft new scenes and insert into existing chapters
  9. Listen to Sarah Bareilles sing “Brave”
  10. Etc.

It’s a good thing I finally figured out the plan – after all, how many award shows can Sarah Bareilles appear on?

Do you sputter between stages? Do you have a inspirational, get-moving song or other tricks to make transitioning between stages easier? Please share your ideas — I might need them soon.

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5 Comments on “New Book Update: Sputtering On”

  1. Kate February 21, 2014 at 9:34 pm #

    Brilliant, Rosanne — outrageously brilliant and funny too. Love it!

    Like

    • rosannebane February 24, 2014 at 12:14 pm #

      Thanks Kate! I’ve always wanted to be outrageously brilliant and funny.

      Like

  2. Alisha Rohde February 21, 2014 at 4:43 pm #

    Ah, I love this…partly because it’s such a good reminder that I’m not the only one who spins wheels! (Yes, I know, of course not…and yet when one is sitting there spinning those wheels, or wrestling with the amnesia that knowledge, too, tries to hide.)

    I’m still working on finding some of those things that help during transitions, so I may try your approach with music. 🙂 Certainly remembering to get up and move, do some yoga, helps me. But now I am thinking a little dancing to the music might shake off some of the inertia!

    Like

    • rosannebane February 24, 2014 at 12:16 pm #

      Alisha,
      Thanks for the reminder about getting my body moving to get my brain moving – I’ve known that for years and yet I “forgot” to apply it in the case of my novel.

      Like

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. New Book Update: An Unexpected Breakthrough | The Bane of Your Resistance - August 22, 2014

    […] brought me back to the challenge of transitioning to the next stage. As I’ve said before, transitions are tough. This one was tougher because I was in the doorway, clutching the jams and struggling not to go […]

    Like

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