Get Out of My Head, Charles!!

Posted: March 16, 2013 in Random Thoughts, Uncategorized

I’ve had a very active imagination from a young age. I started playing Dungeons & Dragons while still in single digits, along with a plethora of other  role playing games between then and now.  I would go to my best friend’s house and the two of us would take turn making ‘movies’ with his ridiculously huge collection of action figures, vehicles and play sets.

As I entered my teenage years, my characters began to become much more developed. I finally understood the concepts of personalities and back stories. Every single last one of them, from ones I’d had since I first started playing to the most disposable character created for a one-shot game session, got the same treatment and became ‘real people’.  As a result, they began to get their own ‘movies’ as well. I would have a gaming session, and in the time until the next one I would act out the characters—what they would do and say in situations that had arisen or might arise from the developments of the previous session.

All of this took place, as Eddie Izzard once said, in my mind (if you’ve seen the routine, you’ll know why it’s italicized).

My interest in becoming a writer also developed in my teens. Being a voracious reader as well, I began to get a better grasp of sentence structure (with a generous amount of help from my English classes, of course) and got a general idea as to how to tell a story. I finally had both the knowledge and opportunity to present the ‘movies’ I was making in a format that was easier to follow—and arguably a lot more interesting—than simply telling people the elaborate stories I had created in my mind.

I didn’t stop with just tabletop characters either. I had several characters that were never put down onto a character sheet. Some were characters that I never got around to making, others were ‘personas’ I had adopted when playing with friends that stuck in my memory and some were simply ideas that had popped into my head.

Anyway, the point to all of this is that I’ve had a problem ever since I began putting these thoughts to paper that persists to this very day. I will create these elaborate scenes in my mind, complete with entire conversations, actions, reactions et cetera. Most of the time I had plans to put them down into words, to create a story for others to read (some people out there insist I’m good at that sort of thing). The problem is one of a huge mental block on my part. I’ll create these scenes and then never put them to paper. Why? Because there’s a voice in the back of my head that says, “You already know how this story plays out, you have it memorized. Why would you need to write it out?”

And then I stupidly listen to that voice and never write it out.

There's barely enough room in here for me!

Now we come to the Magic Spreadsheet. I’ve only been going at it for two weeks now, but it has been a tremendous help to my writing. I’m getting something down every day, even if it’s only a few paragraph. However, I must confess that the last few days, I’ve been flagging. Where I started out strong, pumping out three to five times the minimum word count for the day, the past few days have seen barely over the minimum. The worst part is, I knew this was going to happen. I’m falling into my predictable pattern of early enthusiasm followed by lethargy that sits there staring back at me and only muttering a “meh” when confronted.

I recognize that part of this is the problem mentioned above. I have lots and lots of words crammed in my head and a self-defeating ability to never get rid of them in a useful manner. I hate it. I really do. It only leads to disappointment for everyone involved and only I can change that. Well, I’ve decided to try a new tactic to combat this problem.

The idea came to me two nights ago as I sat around surfing the Internet and suddenly realizing it was 10 minutes to midnight and I hadn’t written a single word. Before the Magic Spreadsheet, I would have just said screw it and completely written off the day.  But no, I had to get something down. Not only for myself, not only to keep the streak going and maintain my ‘score’, but for the person that introduced me to it and more importantly, believes in me. I didn’t want to let her down. I’ve done it too much already, no matter how much she may deny it.

So I just started writing. But not just random thoughts that tumbled around in my head. I focused on getting just the conversations down. I figured once I got those out of the way, I could go back and flesh out the rest when I wasn’t in a slump. Lo and behold, it worked like a charm. I let the dialogue spill out onto the page and the minimum word count came and went without even noticing it.

I’ll be trying this tactic from now on whenever I feel like I’m in a slump.  It’s really only a minor variation of the mantra, “Write it down, make it pretty later.” And it feels like something I can manage.

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