I was efficient today. I did laundry, vacuumed, dusted (a bit, with one of those Swiffer things, but I think that still counts), sorted socks (even though there’s still a plastic bag filled with dryer-orphans behind my dresser), and picked up after the dog. Then, with a sigh of relief that I wouldn’t go back to work tomorrow thinking I shirked my responsibilities yet again, I sat down at the computer and spent a few quality hours with my new best friends.
Of course, those friends are fictional characters in the novel I’m working on, but I realized today that I love them. I love them so much that I wrote 7,000 words of their story and didn’t pause because I was stuck. It flowed and I made myself laugh, pointing out their idiosyncracies, giving voice to their fears and hopes. My goal today was 5,000 words, and in all honesty I could have written another 7,000 without blinking, but there are other things to do also. Not to mention that it isn’t healthy to spend all of my time with my new imaginary friends (tempting as that is).
You see, I don’t have to fix their problems. I can handle their sarcasm and bad moods and I don’t take it personally. I’m merely observing, with no responsibility to offer counsel or cheer them on. That’s what happens when it clicks. I’m at my laptop with my dog beside me and I’m not thinking about the fact that I should be shredding the junk mail or cleaning the refrigerator. I’m in the zone, watching the story unfold and not forcing the plot or character development. I’m just observing, and that’s wonderfully liberating.
In real life there’s an obligation to influence what you witness. There’s an expectation that you, as a friend, spouse, or colleague will offer a word of encouragement or wisdom. When you’re writing and it’s clicking, you just put the words down, allowing the characters to offer support to each other. It comes from your experiences as a human, from all of the times when you searched for the right words to comfort someone and you successfully uttered the right phrase.
When it doesn’t click, I look around and realize that my empty orange juice glass should be rinsed and put in the dishwasher. I notice that I should wash the throw rug. I force the plot. I take the characters from point a to point d, making sure I hit b & c in the middle. I create hours of work in editing by doing that, and sometimes I stop because I’m utterly frustrated with the fact that my brain doesn’t work and the story won’t flow.
I’m going to save the bag of single socks until I have one of those days. Until that happens, I will carve out a few hours from my real life and watch my new friends live their lives. I can’t wait to see what happens! Today, that’s the joy of writing for me.