Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The rollercoaster continues

 I agree with Rick. Here we are in another  bleeping lockdown, only a couple of months after our hopes were soaring high because vaccines were arriving and our liberation was near, along with the arrival of spring. As an aside, we Canadians relate everything to the season and the weather. Warm, sunny, deluge, freezing, blizzard; nothing is ever the same old same old. Right now we are in the midst of a gorgeous, sunny, summer-like heat wave. The tulips are blooming, when in other years dirty traces of snow might still linger in the shady parts of the yard.

This weather should be enough to energize and lift the spirits, but instead this recent crushing lockdown has made us all slightly unhinged. People are doing nutty things like trashing businesses in Old Montreal, already struggling from lockdowns. Driving donuts inside rings of fire created by pouring gasoline in a circle in an empty parking lot. Holding huge, maskless beer parties in public parks in normally well-behaved Ottawa.

As writers, as observers and commentators of human nature, this should all be fascinating stuff. We kill people for a living, for heaven's sake. What's a flaming donut or maskless beer party? But while we're living through it, this mass hysteria is pretty scary stuff. The best we can do as writers is file it away in that mental file marked "random story ideas" and try to cling to our sanity. As many writers have already noted, keeping our focus and our energy in these times is exhausting. I am writing in fits and starts, finding it difficult to get any purchase on the crumbling ground of my concentration. 

Maybe it would be easier if I were a plotter. It seems to me that's a more methodical way to write, because you proceed almost point-form from one scene and stepping stone to the next. Once you have the structure and the essence, there is a built-in scaffolding to hang on to and keep your focus. I'd like to know from plotters whether this is a help to this pandemic writing challenge.

Unfortunately I'm mostly a pantser. I don't know the overall story or what's coming next or where I should end up. This scaffold-free creativity demands lots of energy, concentration, and inspiration. The muse doesn't need to be here all the time, because once I hit on a new idea to move the story forward, I happily run with the idea until it's done. But the muse needs to make frequent visits. Pandemic lassitude saps the creative mind of energy. It takes a lot of determination to force myself to sit in the chair and stare at the page, willing the next brilliant idea to flit in. It's so much easier to walk the dogs or browse Facebook. I haven't resorted to mopping the floors yet, but this morning I did vacuum them. Yikes.

Because this is my twentieth book, I do know that it will get written, that at some point as the deadline approaches, the required amount of panic and frustration will kick in to give me the energy I need. With each book, there has always been a time when I thought I didn't have an idea left in my head and the book was going to fall flat on its face. Somehow, by the end of the teeth gnashing, hair pulling, massaging and rewriting, a passably good book emerges. And so it will this time. 

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