Floodtide of Ideas

The Soda Dam: Jemez River, New Mexico

Just a couple of weeks ago, limbering up my imagination so I could write even a few sentences was a time-consuming and not very rewarding task.  Last week was the first since Jim’s knee replacement surgery (which was on Halloween, for those of you who haven’t been around) that I managed to write every day.  As I’ve mentioned, the problem wasn’t so much lack of time as that my imagination was busy with other things.

One of the exercises I assist Jim with involves stretching out his quads.  A side benefit is that it helps keep scar tissue from constricting the knee.  We do this exercise at least five times a day, and the benefits – while not dramatic – have been visible.

Apparently, pushing myself to write at least some Monday through Friday of last week stretched out my healing imagination.   Where early in the week I had to push to write even a few pages – Tuesday was particularly tough – by Friday even a late start didn’t keep me from completing four pages.  Even better, while I didn’t write over the weekend, all sorts of little connections began to fall into place.

As I turned on my computer on Sunday to take just a few notes, I felt very cheerful.  I’ve always been a character-driven writer.  Now my character were expressing their opinions as to what they wanted to do next – as well as revealing certain things they had been hiding from the other characters.   (And from me!)

There’s just one problem about this new flood of creativity. It’s not restricting itself to the novel.  Instead, it’s popping out in some very unusual areas.  The last session of the RPG I’ve been running triggered some interesting thoughts that I really should write down.  Then there’s a niggling feeling that I’d really enjoy writing a short story or two.

Professional writers often have people come up to them with the following suggestion: “Hey!  I have a great idea for a story.  Here’s what I think we should do.  I’ll tell you my idea.  You write it.  Then we’ll split the money.”  Writers tend to think this suggestion is very funny since lack of ideas is very rarely the problem: the problem is lack of time.

So, what does one do when this embarrassment of creative riches occurs?

In my case, I try to prioritize.  Working on the Firekeeper novel is my current “homework assignment,” so I try to write on that every day.  This helps keep me from losing touch not only with the flow of the story, but with my enthusiasm for it.  Then I consider the other ideas that are clamoring for attention.

Game notes?  Those don’t need to be in my best prose, so I can knock those off pretty quickly.   An added benefit is that when I have enough game notes, I can pretty much ignore game prep as a writing project for a while, at least until my players do something I didn’t anticipate and I need to consider the ramifications.

Short stories?  This depends on how much the idea is obsessing me.  Sometimes I’ll start a short story so I don’t lose touch with it.  If it “catches fire,” then I try and write it side by side with my novel.  Sometimes, I even put the novel on side for a day or so to finish the short story.  This is not as detrimental to the novel as it might seem.  If part of my subconscious is occupied with a competing story, the novel will inevitably begin to slow down.  Getting the other story out of the way re-opens the floodgates.

However, if the short story doesn’t catch fire, then I keep the part I’ve written, but I put it on side until I have more time to think about it.  Maybe what I have is the seed of a story idea, not a full-blown story.  The time I spend “planting” the seed isn’t usually wasted.  At the very least, there isn’t a little voice in my head saying “Don’t forget that cool idea!  Don’t forget that cool idea!”

Sometimes I just scribble a note to myself on a scrap of paper and toss it into a box on my desk.  It’s full of similar scraps, and when time permits I pull them out and review them.

It feels good to have the ideas flooding through my head.  I have about twenty minutes before I’m needed anywhere.  I think I’ll use them writing out some of those game notes, so I can write more of my novel this afternoon.

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2 Responses to “Floodtide of Ideas”

  1. Harried Harry Says:

    Your title “Floodtide” reminded me the reconstruction of the Catwalk near Glenwood has been completed. Better yet, the trout have been put back into the river there. The Gila river trout are starting to expand their territory so all can enjoy looking, catching, releasing and watching them.

    I scribble lots of notes, but then I forget what the note is about till days, months or even years later. Now I try to date the note and give it a short title to “remind me” of what I was thinking.

    I’m happy to hear Jim’s recovery work is proceeding well. I know it’s a pain, but the long term results are worth it. Several of my siblings have required similar surgery and recovery work. All were diligent (very surprising to the rest of us) in working through the PT, so now they are doing well. Keep up the good work! Enjoy your Christmas plans and try to do something special just to keep your spirits up.

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