Wednesday, June 24, 2009

How to unstick

This is a sketch I did of my "cover" for the novel I'm working on. I drew it on my small metal dry-erase board a long time ago. I doubt this is the title.

So what do you do when you get stuck?
When that story grinds to a halt and something is just holding the whole bloody thing up?

Well for me, I was pretty much stuck about three or four weeks ago. I knew where I wanted to go and I had some early scenes that worked for me. But the transition from an overly polished chapter to a completely rough scene had me hooped (Canadian expression for... screwed).

I just couldn't get my mind wrapped around a stupid transition from a flashback to an important plot point that basically provides my main character's entire motivation for everything that comes after.

Welcome paradigm shift. I call her Amy. Or my wife. Or muffin ass (term of endearment in our family). She realized I was SCHTUCK so she prepared a picnic and told me to bring my writing stuff. (See moleskin notebooks and pens)

After going to the dog park to wear Linus out (Coming Attraction: dog park post!), we drove around and tried to decide where my muse was hiding out (if she survived, see blog title). I remembered seeing this spot off of Dallas Road.

It's a spit of land that juts out into the Puget Sound (facing south toward Port Townsend that you can see on a clear day, including the steam from the paper mill).

At the end, there is a worn wooden lounge chair all by itself. Which is just the kind of place my muse wanders off to relax.

What a cool family I have. I love my wife. What a babe. And awesome writing coach.

Me and my dog.

Here's the view from our working lunch (our legs are slightly less white now but not much).

And Linus' semi-private swimming hole.

Care for a chip and salsa?

Amy asked me lots of questions about my story, which at first I bristled at and felt like I was wasting my time, until I got over myself and then suddenly it clicked. Amy had asked why I didn't just separate my flashback from the rest of my story's timeline. I may not be explaining it well at all, but something clicked and my block was gone. Amy kept asking questions and wrote down everything. This was one of those awesome feelings you get as a writer where ideas come too fast to get down.

Linus curious if I'll fall in or not.

Linus... Official stick rescuer.

And apparently kelp retriever as well.


So thanks to Amy I wrangled my muse here, just off Dallas Road in Victoria, on Vancouver Island, in British Columbia, Canada.

If you can't find your muse. I recommend checking this lounge chair.


  1. Map, please?
    I have a feeling this a magnet spot for muses. Mine decided "revision" was a tiresome word and went AWOL.
    :-D thanks for the post, feeling much better now, and so happy to hear you're off and running.

  2. Thank you for that. I think this is what i need. I have feared that, in murdering your own muse, you have sent others into hiding. I think i'll have to find a place like yours. (yours is too far away from here)

  3. i love the cover!!! and i think your wifey is awesome not just cuz of the support and the spot but for the fact that you can eat snickers in front of her! :DL

  4. what a great post. i was amused and inspired by your writing and the scenery is stunning. when muses go missing, they will surely be found — in places like this.

  5. Tricia, the directions are easy from where you're at. Just get in a boat, or anything that floats really. Head North until you get to the Puget Sound. The tides, wind and swell should bring you right to the chair and your muse.

    Monica I gather that you're pretty far away (Toronto if the Blue Jays reference means anything). But it's cool following you and your fictional seven deadly sins (that I need to get to myself). As for murdering muses, yes, somedays I struggle to write so badly I'm afraid I've become the literary inspiration equivalent of Jack the Ripper.

    Thank you Donna Lyn, that cover was just kind of a fun sketch I've kept up on my wall for inspiration. Funny how as a writer it helps to occasionally switch your medium and shake your brains a little, switch paradigms. Illustrators do this naturally, but I have to remind myself to draw a picture, watch a movie, or do brainstorm visually, even verbally, as opposed to just writing. Kjersten has a great post about creative journaling here:
    Donna Lyn is a genius of exploring her creativity as well here:
    Donna is my Aunt and when I was little she was the absolute best coloring book colorer I've still ever seen in my life. We used to marvel over her coloring book artwork. She has cleverly turned that into an awesome career along similar creative lines... (sorry pun)

    good idea Anita. I eat even when I'm not stuck.

    Karen ann, thank you. Amusement and inspiration is what we're going for here. Though I wonder if your muse wouldn't show up on an old Taco Bell commercial or the big screen (wasn't there some new big chihuahua movie?). From one dog person to another, thank you.

  6. Helpful spouses and scenery are the best. Thanks for another great and creative post, Ben.