writer in progress: cobwebs

It used to freak me out.

I'd have a few days--sometimes, a few weeks--of being, oh, just the littlest bit brain-dead. Something would happen, some kind of huge renovation project, or a minor crisis, or a major happy occasion. My routine crumbled to ashes, the writing stopped, and the story grew cold.

Sometimes, I just forgot that I was a writer for a few days in a row. Sometimes it was that simple.

Whatever the cause, there have been times when I've stopped writing.

Which means, there have been many times when I've had to figure out how to start again.

For about four years, my "favorite" technique was: Let's make a list. (You're shocked, aren't you. Aren't you? Yeah, me neither.)

You can make a list for anything, right? It's like building a beautiful, optimistic ladder in black and white, and if you touch every rung, you make it to the top! Brilliant! Perfect!

I'd program myself to death, and maybe I'd get started again.

Lately, though, I've abandoned the list-making technique.

This morning, the first Monday back at it, after the blaze of holidays and vacation... I've come back to it peaceably. Without lists. Without stress.

Instead of the programs and lists, it's a lot more fun to find the bits of the project that I love.

To flip idly through the last draft and come across the moments I still believe in, the bits of dialogue that make me laugh. It helps to look my characters in the face, and remember why I'm writing about them, why I'm telling their story, when it could have been anyone else's.

When I get reacquainted with the heart of the story, when I find my own heart as a writer, then it's the easiest thing to brush out the mental cobwebs, and to start typing again.

I write because I love it, after all.

It's a small lesson, maybe. But one I come back to again and again: if my heart isn't engaged in the words, then I might as well not do this. If I'm not writing for the love of it, then it's time to find a new job.

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