Getting past mental roadblocks

It’s been quite a while since I last posted something. That’s partly because things were hectic at work and, consequently, at home after work, but also because I seemed to hit a mental road block with my draft (tentatively titled Wait For Me).

After sorting through the basic plot flow, things began moving more smoothly, and I got well into chapter three before re-reading the draft and deciding to rejigger things a bit. Old chapter two became new chapter one, old chapter three is new chapter two, and old chapter one is now something I’ll hold in my head as background for why certain characters do what they do.

But then, things stalled. I still liked the overall outline but was struggling to figure out a couple of my characters, one in particular. Unfortunately, he is one of the main characters, so this became something of a problem.

So, instead of continuing to bang my head against the wall (figuratively speaking, of course), I set that work aside and this week began reading up on the second story that I’d like to write. This one is set in the Civil War period, and even though it’s a novel set in a certain historical period, as opposed to a historical novel based on real characters, I need to be sure to get certain facts correct and the real Civil War timeline straight, because that part does matter.

We happen to be at the beach right now, which is my absolutely favorite place to be. This week has meant lots of down time to read, relax, reflect on my book, or just stare off into the sky, if that’s what I feel like doing. Today, I did more background reading and note taking for the second book (tentative title: The Banished), then took a short nap, then worked on a jigsaw puzzle (which we never, ever do anyplace else), and then went on a long, lovely walk on the nearly deserted beach.

And then, on the walk and all of a sudden, the pieces of the first book started falling into place even though I hadn’t even been thinking about it — it just popped into my head. I don’t know whether it was the result of having set that book aside for a while or whether it was the pleasure of simply walking along a quiet stretch of beach and watching the breakers roll in, but suddenly I had answers to my questions about that key character and how to add detail and texture to explain why he does what he does.

Perhaps it was a combination of all of the above — working on a second project, doing something kind of mindless (the puzzle), and emptying my mind on the walk — but whatever it was, it worked. I think we sometimes struggle so much (well, perhaps I should say, “I sometimes struggle so much”) to work out plot lines and character issues that our minds get caught in a kind of endless loop that ends up blocking creativity and making progress difficult.

My note to self after this: find a way to let go when I’m struggling in that way. Just let it go, work on something else for a while, perhaps don’t think of either project for a little while. In the meantime, all those plot and character development issues will still be there, in the deep recesses of our thoughts, and the tangled lines and threads will somehow work themselves out.

Now, back to reading and working on that second book! (Or should I go help my husband finish that darned jigsaw puzzle?!)


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