Wednesday, August 8

Changing the Scene

A few days ago (or maybe weeks, I'm terrible with time) someone asked me what I do when I get stuck. Technically, they asked what happens when I have writer's block, but I don't believe in writer's block and that led to an entire conversation in which said person was eye-rolling me...and we won't go there. So I'm rephrasing. Being stuck is quite different from wailing and moaning and gnashing-of-the-teeth because 'I'm blocked'.

Yes, I'm not feeling the pain. Let's move on before I really get going.

So, when I'm feeling stuck...or a plot point isn't working the way I want...or a character is giving me fits...Yeah, I have a lot of those moments. Ask Liz or D'Ann or Margie or Shawn and they'll tell you.

One of my tried-and-true methods is to change the scene I'm in. And I don't mean just the writerly scene, I mean my entire scene. Now, I can't fly to Mexico at the drop of a hat, more's the pity, but I can go for a walk, swim until I drop, go shopping or out to lunch with my girls or...you get the drift.

More often than not, though, what really helps me through the stuck-i-ness is engaging a different part of my creative brain. I sew and I attempt to quilt. That's the picture up here. My latest project, recently finished for a new baby cousin. It's a softbook, but I wanted to do something a little different so I took the panels intended for a book and created a storybook quilt for the little guy. I think it turned out pretty well. The colors are nicely bright - great for eye development - the theme is fun because his daddy is in construction, the words are easy to learn (assuming the quilt lives until he's 4-5 years old)...it's just fun!

As I was picking out fabric and making the cuts the swatches of red and strips of blue, I was focused on cutting exact measurements. As I sewed it all together, I concentrated on stitching 'in the ditch...you get the picture. But all that concentration leaves my subconscious free to think about other things.

Like my characters. Like the plot point that isn't working. Like the fact that I liked my hero much more before I started writing him...that kind of thing. So while I'm changing my scene, my subconscious is still there, working through it. Usually by the end of a project, I have the answers I need. I've figured out where the plot went wrong, how to redeem my hero, how to make my heroine actually likeable. It works for me.

What about you? Do you have a process for working out the kinks in your books?

16 comments:

  1. Well, as you know, we're akin on what we do there, but I LOVE that quilt...and I have some soft book stuff upstairs. So, the next time I get "stuck," I'm going to plagiarize your quilt! Of course, it's a different book, so it's no REALLY plagiarizing, is it? :-) Great post, Kristi!

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  2. LOL, Liz! Nope, not plagiarizing at all! It was so fun - I had the cuts made in a couple of hours, the top sewing took an afternoon...the quilting longer. Only the cutting part was part of my 'i'm stuck, fix it' process...the rest just had to get done!

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  3. Gorgeous quilt, Kristina! I tried quilting and I really don't have the patience for it. But I do let my mind wander with something similar - I knit, or crochet or do counted cross stitch. Seems when I'm concentrating on something, the other side of my brain frees up and usually figures out a way to solve whatever problem sent me running to my craft box in the first place.

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  4. I envy your patience with quilting. And what wonderful results you get! Working like that with fabric is beyond me. I do my glass--a friend calls it quilting for the impatient. I cut pieces of glass, put them in a design I like and then let the kiln do the sewing and quilting. Then I go back to my WIP with my brain unstuck.

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  5. The quilt is beautiful! My grandmother was amazing at quilting, sewing and crocheting. Me? let's just say if needle gets near me it tries to stick me! When I get stuck, (no pun intended) getting outside and gardening is my answer to allowing my brain to relax a but and think of something else.

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  6. Margery, that's exactly how quilting and sewing work for me. While my 'active' brain is focused on cutting and sewing, the 'inactive' is still working those plot points!

    Peggy, your glass is *amazing*! I'm in awe of it!!

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  7. I read or watch tv. But, for some reason, my answers come while I'm in the shower or when I first wake up in the morning. I love you quilt! The only thing I can sew is a button.

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  8. I ask myself this question "what if" and give myself 20 answers. I've never had to get to #20 before I was unstuck :)

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  9. I find that my mind clears while I'm in the shower. LOL. Weird, I know.

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  10. Galen, I've tried knitting and crocheting...and neither works for me. I can't even knit a pot-holder!

    Shawn and Sharon, all I can think about in the shower is 'did I wash my hair yet?' ... which usually leads me to double-wash. ;)

    Sheri, love your 20 questions idea! May add that to my rotation!

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  11. I like the idea of changing your scene. I did that recently with a trip to Scotland. It was truly a change agent for me. I certainly don't have the skill or patience to quilt. I'm envious.

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  12. Like you, Kristina, I'm a quilter. Both my computer and sewing machine are in my office, so when the words won't flow, I switch to my sewing project. It's a great break, and I still feel like I'm accomplishing something.

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  13. Wow, is that beautiful! I wish I could quilt. I usually force myself through a sticky place. I don't really believe in block.

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  14. Ruby, I'd love to visit Scotland one day...and Ireland, too...

    Susan, one of the things I love about my ginormous desk is that I can keep my sewing stuff at one end and still have plenty of room for the writing paraphernalia!

    D'Ann, thanks! Forcing through works - as Nora says 'you can't edit a blank page'. :)

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  15. We went to the fair yesterday and I looked at the quilts and am so envious of those of you who can quilt. I can't control the sewing machine. I even stitch-witchery my hems--and trust me, I have a to hem a lot!

    Like a few others said, hot showers seem to work for me. And the moments between sex and sleep.

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  16. Margie, the quilts at fairs slay me. So so so so good!

    '...the moments between sex and sleep' - LOVE that! :)

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