Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Voodoo and Blood Sacrifice

By Sariah S. Wilson

Writers are a little weird. But you already knew that, right?

I’m no exception. I have weird writerly rituals that I do.

Like right now I’m trying to finish a novel by April. I have at least another 20,000 words to go. I’m trying to make myself write about 2,000 words a day which, while it may sound easy, is a difficult thing to do. Real life keeps getting in the way. Sometimes I just sit here in front of my computer because I can’t think of what the next line should be or a good hook for the end of a chapter. Other writers I know can write scenes in various order and then slap it all together later. I can’t do that. I have to write the book in chronological order so if I get stuck, I’m really stuck.

I do something very strange to get unstuck. And it always works. I take a shower.

I read this book once, something about how water had these negative ions which stimulated creativity. The author talked about how she kept a waterproof notepad and pen in the shower for the ideas that came to her. I thought it sounded dumb. But I tried it anyway.

I’m telling you, it works.

When I started telling other people about it, after they finished looking at me strangely, I got surprising responses. My father admitted that the parody songs he writes mainly came to him in the shower. My husband talked about how he thought of resolutions to difficult programming problems in the shower. I shared this information at my local writers’ group and at the following meeting a published author came up to tell me that the water thing worked for her as well. I hear whole scenes of dialogue in my head while in the shower, and if stuck in a chapter, can always come up with a way to write around it. Supposedly taking a bath or sitting by a fountain or waterfall has the same sort of effect, and if I ever clear a space on my desk I think I’ll get one of those desktop fountains.

But the water thing is not my only weirdness. I light a candle each time I sit down to write. It’s a way to signal to my brain that I’m serious, we’re writing now. Each book has its own scent - the last was cucumber melon, this one is mountain berry. I also listen to the same songs over and over again, hoping that it will cue my mind to understand (again) that we’re writing now. I’m currently listening to Nick Lachey’s “What’s Left of Me” (which makes me want to find Jessica Simpson and bop her on the head) and Cascada’s “Every Time we Touch.” For the romantic scenes between my hero and heroine, it is Stephen Speaks’ “Out of My League.”

Fortunately, I know I’m not alone in my little rituals. Many writers have shared with me their own quirky things they do when they write. I also recently started to read a book called “The Midnight Disease.” It's about writers who have a problem with their temporal lobe and have a reaction called hypergraphia. It’s a compulsion to write. You can’t stop yourself if you have it. You absolutely must write, and you must fill pages upon pages upon pages. As disorders go, I’m thinking it wouldn’t be such a bad one to have. Especially when you only have another couple of weeks to finish a novel.

What about you? Do you have strange things you do to spark your creativity?


At 3/25/2006 1:15 PM, Blogger Elizabeth said...

A lot of my ideas come when i am napping. They are usually in forms of dreams. You can't go to sleep because then you have REM, and that doesn't help you remember dreams, but if it is a quick nap-ideas usually come.

I think one reason the shower works, besides the negative ions (because oxygen has a more negative charge than the two hydgrogens) is because it is quite, and no interruptions. Your mind has time to wonder, and the sound of the water can help your mind focus (learned about that in cognitive development).

At 3/27/2006 11:58 PM, Blogger KB said...

I write best in my reindeer jammies and piggy slippers. They are wearing out. I could be in trouble soon.

If I'm writing long hand, I like to be in a patch of sunlight.

When I get stuck, I pull my feet up into my chair and spin around and around. I think it shakes the marbles loose and lets the ideas flow. I tried to explain this to my boss when I worked as a technical writer. I'm not sure he believed me, but as long as I got my pages done he left me alone.

At 3/28/2006 6:37 PM, Blogger Colleen Gleason said...

Hey Sariah, what a great post!

I take a bath almost every night--especially when I'm stuck on my ms--when I'm writing. I never knew why it seemed to work so well to get me unstuck, but now I know!

Thanks for the info!

At 3/28/2006 6:51 PM, Blogger Candace E. Salima said...

What a great idea, Sariah! I'm going to give it a shot myself. I have to have 100,000 words written by May 1st. Yes, even I am daunted by that but I think I can do it.

Thanks to the LDS Storymakers Writers Conference this weekend and your tips, I think I just might be able to make it happen! At least I got my publisher to agree to finishing the one by May 1st and then the other a little bit later instead of both on May 1st. Whew!

Candles - check. Shower - check. Music - check. Do I have to sit down at my computer and actually type?

At 4/04/2006 12:02 AM, Blogger Candace E. Salima said...

Hey Sariah,

Did you finish your manuscript by April? I'm sweatin' my May deadline.

At 4/04/2006 9:23 AM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

I still have until the last week of April. I'm close to the end, but for some reason I'm having a really hard time finishing it up.


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