Confession: I’ve never really bought into the muse idea or writer’s block for that matter. For me, it’s always been a case of “idea in, words out.”
As I was finishing up the last WIP, I started brainstorming new projects. There were four stories I wanted to tell, but one in particular really intrigued me. It had everything—great concept, emotional tugs, interesting characters, family secrets, personal revelations, fabulous location, and a very personal connection. It was the perfect story to write next.
I had the working title, I had character names, I’d even started mind-mapping plot points (that’s a post for another day though). And because I’m a planning nut, I had a calendar with milestones for completing the various drafts.
So imagine the frustration when my perfect story got stuck somewhere between the in and out channels.
The one thing I hadn’t taken into consideration was life. The last few months were draining on so many levels. I’d pushed through a particularly rough period with the determination to lose myself in my writing. It worked. And it didn’t. I finished the project. But though I was able to write “the end” on the manuscript, I couldn’t wrap a nice bow on other things. And those other issues were weighing me down.
Then one evening I went for a walk, alone. Well, me and the multiple characters in my head, but they were behaving and leaving me mostly to my thoughts. There’s a lovely little pond in our neighborhood and the frogs were performing at full volume. It was late in the afternoon and getting chilly but I was drawn to the bench by the pond.
I sat and listened to the frogs. At some point my husband texted, asking where I was. I snapped this picture and responded with, “having a chat with my imaginary friend.”
It started as a joke but there was something—someone?—in the shadows on that bench.
If I could have anyone sitting next to me, who would it be? Who would I want to let into my space?
That’s when it hit me. The character in my perfect story wasn’t the one I wanted next to me. She’s intense, driven, and lost. Yup, she’s way too much like me and two “me’s” in one brain is at least one too many. Especially right now.
As writers, the characters we create are often extensions of ourselves in one way or another. I don’t mean that they are us, but that we often use them to explore feelings and experiences.
When I stopped planning the perfect story, it became as clear as the shapes on the bench next to me. The right story isn’t always the one with the best marketing hook or highest concept or hard hitting characters. Sometimes the right story is the one with the ‘person’ you’d really like to sit next to on a park bench.
That perfect story is still there, and in a few months I’ll get back to it. But for now, I’m thoroughly enjoying spending time with my ‘right’ story. I look forward to the time I get to spend with the main character and her partners in mischief. It’s fun seeing what trouble we can get into, what the gossip about town is, and navigate emotional territory that’s quite different from mine.
Now I want to hear form WITS readers—do you allow your life situation to influence what you write and when you write it? Do you pick a story idea and move forward without second guessing your choice?
After years of pushing the creativity boundary in corporate communications, Orly decided it was time for a new challenge. Three women’s fiction manuscripts later (plus a handful of picture books), it’s safe to say she’s found her creative outlet. When she’s not talking to her imaginary friends, she’s reading or at least trying to ignore everyone around her long enough to finish “just one more paragraph.” Orly is the founding president of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association.