Friday, August 5, 2011

Try, try again

I love trying new things. Kissing the frog and finding a prince... or just another slimy amphibian. Trying and trying and trying. It's an adventure each time, but sometimes you need to go back to those first princes you found and smooch them again.

This past week or two I've been having trouble focusing on my writing. I sit down to write and I know the story is there, but my mind is a jumble. It takes me a few moments just to remember what I was doing with this scene, then I start and after just a few paragraphs I've forgotten again what I was doing. Distractions abound. Did I change the laundry? Damn, I forgot to wash the dishes yesterday. Did I answer that email? It's hot again today, I really need to water the garden. And on and on and on.

This isn't the first time I've had trouble like this. It's a fairly common problem for me. In the past I've used music to tune everything out, but it wasn't working this time. So now what? Look for another way to focus? What can I try that I haven't done already?

Then I realized that I don't have to find something new. I needed to go back to something old.

When I first started looking for ways to focus myself during my writing time I would light a candle (actually I would light nearly a dozen candles) and pull out an incense stick with one of my favorite scents. I haven't lit a candle while writing for... oh dear, over a year now. I only seem to need them when I'm having trouble, so one I get into the flow of a story I fall out of the habit of using them. I was starting to think that I had "out grown" them entirely.

Then last night, on a whim, I pulled out an incense stick and lit it. As soon as I stuck the stick in the little holder and watched the first curls of smoke twist and drift in the air I remembered why I love watching incense sticks burn. Smoke is to fluid and ethereal. It moves and turns and dances, but you can never actually touch it. All the little voices in the back of my mind quieted and I just sat for a moment watching the smoke drift, familiar scents bringing me back to the joy I had writing in those early years. It was exactly what I needed.

So next I pulled out the box of candles that I had packed into the closet, set up all my little dancing flames around the computer, just like I used to years ago. Then I started to write. Almost immediately I fell into "the Zone". There’s something relaxing about telling time by how short your incense stick has become. When the stick was all burnt up (that's about an hour) I found that I had finished my day with 2k new words and some really good scenes. I felt refreshed, revived. I had accomplished more then I had meant to and I went to bed happy.

So if you try something and it works for one story then stops working for the next, don't throw that idea away. Keep a box of ideas (or at least a mental list) and periodically go back and try things again. Who knows, something that didn't work for you before might just be the very thing you need now.

Never stop trying. Never stop experimenting. You might be surprised at the results.

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