Monday, August 21, 2006

Fifteen-Minute Salvation

Last week I talked to my editor about the first few chapters of my novel-in-progress. She was enthusiastic, encouraging me to enlarge my vision of the story, making it bigger and bolder, using the art (because I’d included illustrations in the chapters I sent her) more broadly and as more of a storytelling element.

Which was all very exciting. But also frightening. What if I couldn’t enlarge my vision enough? What if that enlarged vision was still too mundane? What if the story never lived up to its potential? Nothing paralyzes me quite like fear, and for the past week I’ve been living in this weird state of excitement, fright, and depression.

But I’ve stumbled onto a cure, or at least a temporary cure. I’ve been forcing myself to sit down for fifteen minutes at a time to write. I’m not writing actual manuscript pages, although bits of dialogue and story creep in; I’m only taking notes, brainstorming, letting my mind wander over characters, relationships, settings, plot. And once I start, I can’t stop till the fifteen minutes are up, no matter how badly it seems to be going. At first I tend to write inane and useless things like:

Okay, I have to write for fifteen minutes about Griffin and his problems. What do I want to say? Where do I want him to go? What scenes jump out at me? I can’t stop now. I’ve still got fourteen and half minutes to go.

But as I push on through my allotted time period, my subconscious starts doing its thing, and before I finish (which is usually at some point past the fifteen-minute mark because once the ideas roll in I have to follow them) I’ve not only come up with new ideas for the story, I’ve shaken off the paralysis and am excited once more about digging into the story.

This isn’t a permanent remedy. The doubts creep back in the next day, sometimes later the same day, and I have to do my fifteen-minute cure again. But it’s nice to have a weapon in my battle against fear and paralysis that, so far, hasn’t misfired.

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