Like most writers, I spend the bulk of my writing time staring at a computer monitor. My husband and I also own our own wedding photography business, so we work from home during the week. Which means I practically LIVE at this computer. The chair is molded to my body and the coffee rings on the desk are permanent.
So when I’m trying to write while sitting at the computer, it’s sometimes hard for me to be truly creative. My mind is programmed to do WORK things when I am sitting here. Editing, taxes, ordering. And so, I wind up in a dull rut. My dialogue starts to sound like bad actors on daytime TV. My settings become white-walled and claustrophobic. And I have no clue what my characters should do next. And my cat (Charlie Anne – aka The Bun Buns) is doing nothing to help…
A change of scenery is in order.
My favorite place to write away from my computer is at a window seat in a coffee shop or restaurant. Being out among people–watching them walk their dachshunds, pack their kids into strollers, hold hands–invigorates me! I’m able to imagine my characters out there in the world, sipping a latte, going on a blind date, bemoaning the rip in their glove. My dialogue becomes real and rounded. My settings grow color and sound and air. My scenes have movement.
There’s also something about writing in a notebook that excites me. When I am writing at the computer, I tend to agonize over word choice. I read and reread the paragraphs I’ve already written, revising the parts that don’t flow right, trying to get the words I already have to lead me into the words I still need to find. Because of this, writing is a slow struggle for me. A fight. But when I’m sitting with a notebook, it’s more difficult for my eyes to glaze back over what I’ve already scribbled down, so there’s no place to go but onward. I find myself writing quickly, flipping pages like a madwoman, pausing only occasionally to think about what should come next.
It’s true that the scenes I write like this are seldom usable in their original form, and when I move them to the computer a lot of revision has to happen, but the frenzied pace that I find when I’m writing in a notebook just feels so freeing. I stop worrying so much. I let myself make mistakes, misspell words, repeat phrases, change all the facts mid-paragraph. Because none of it feels permanent. It’s just temporary. I can take it to the computer and use it and mold it into something even better, or I can choose to leave it in that notebook forever.
I wish I could bring those mindsets into my office and make them sit at my computer. Fresh air, the movement of people, the freeing lack of permanence. I’ve tried to use my notebook for longer periods of writing, but I haven’t been able to stick to it. Things become almost too free, lacking any sense of organization or structure. My characters start to wander too far outside of the story. And when I lug my laptop to a coffee shop (and pull out the power cable, trying not to spill my coffee over it, adjusting my eyes to the brightness of the screen, worrying about people tripping over said power cable), it’s somehow not the same. And at times I find a haven in this small, familiar office–my husband sitting next to me, typing away, my cat curled up on the warm hard drive, and the satisfaction I get when I type the perfect word.
So for now I guess I’ll just have to keep bouncing back and forth to give my writer brain whatever it needs at the moment — a keyboard, a coffee shop, a notebook, or just some fresh air.
I’m leaving on a short vacation for the weekend (a birthday present from hubby to me!), so I will be back next week with pics and hopefully some recommended reading. Have a great weekend!
Looking for Alaska by John Green. Last week for Valentine’s Day, the hubs bought me all five of John Green’s books on Kindle. I have not read any of them before, so I decided I would indulge myself in a little thing I like to call a JohnGreenathon (hey– it’s better than JohnGreenapalooza). So, going in order of publication, Looking for Alaska was first on the list. And how did it go?
I LOVED it! It was not at all what I expected, and that is a good thing. The story was great, but what I loved most of all were the characters. Green needs little more than a few lines of dialogue to give us a realistic, well-rounded character. Alaska, in particular, had pitch perfect dialogue, and I, like the main character, wanted to see her again and again just to hear what she was going to say. The entire crew – Pudge, the Colonel, Takumi, Lara, and Alaska – were each so well defined that dialogue tags were barely needed. I could tell who was speaking just from what they said and how they said it.
The voice. There’s just something about the narrator having a strong voice that pulls me into a book more than anything else. I loved Miles’ (aka Pudge’s) voice. Here are just a few examples that stuck out:
I wanted to be one of those people who have streaks to maintain, who scorch the ground with their intensity. But for now, at least I knew such people, and they needed me, just like comets need tails.”- page 49
But I lacked the courage and she had a boyfriend and I was gawky and she was gorgeous and I was hopelessly boring and she was endlessly fascinating. So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane.” – page 88
And there are tons of quotes I could have added here, but I’ll let you read the book for yourself! Next up: An Abundance of Katherines. Yay!