Odd how sometimes the weather matches my mood. I know, it’s more typical that the weather influences how you’re feeling, but every once in a while it goes the other way. Like today; a very, very foggy morning. Perfectly suited to my apparently foggy brain today.
Nothing convinces me more of the wisdom of writing every day than being between books. Which I am. The hard work on the last book (the 3rd Cutter’s Code, for those keeping track) is done. I’m in the deciding part of “What’s next?” Which for me, if it’s not already a given, often consists of starting three (sometimes more if I’m really undecided) stories to see which one takes off. The others may still be used, but it’s not their time yet.
But right now, as I said, I’m in a bit of a fog. I sat down this morning, amid the sound of foghorns, and tried to pick where to go next. It’s not that there’s any shortage of ideas for my furry friend’s next adventure. No, I started with a list of a dozen possible stories, and I’ve added more since. And bits and pieces are flying at me, a scene here, bits of dialogue there, character images over there. Problem is, they’re all for different stories. (When people ask “Where do you get your ideas?” I always laugh. I don’t need ideas, I need a way to fight them off. Or at least discipline them so they only come at me one at a time!) It’s as if all the ideas I’ve scribbled down held a meeting and came out of it with an agenda to tag team me.
Usually when I’m at this point, I always have a side project to work on. Something just for me, or something in a new genre, or just something whimsical that makes me smile. But it seems those went to the same meeting, and are flying around my head until I can’t see any one of them clearly. Hence the fog analogy today.
There was a time when I could indulge all this. When I could just let things fly around until one of them got tired enough to land. Or go away and do something else and come back later. But part of being a professional writer is…well, being professional. Which means showing up. Every day. Writing. Every day. Even if it’s garbage and your first move the next day is to hit the delete key. Because writing is like muscle; use it or lose it. Sad that that’s a lesson I have to relearn every now and then. Take too much time off, and it’s hell getting started again. Of course, a real writer is never not working. To the annoyance of family and friends, everything truly is material. But that’s the fun part. Those “Wow, that would make a great story!” moments. The hard part is deciding which of those wows actually would make a great story. Will it hold up? What will it take to make it work? Can that little scrap of an idea really carry a 400 page manuscript?
And that’s where I am now. Amid a fog of ideas, trying to see which ones will work, and of those, which one wants to be told the most. E. L. Doctorow said “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” I think the same applies to fog. Except sailing along in the fog might be a tad more dangerous! But I know by now the only way to deal with this situation is to simply launch my ship and sail into that fog, never mind that I can’t see either shore right now. They’re there. I need to relax and remember the fun is in the journey.