Sometimes life gets in the way of our writing and we reach a slump. We’re not lazy or without a plot for our story, rather, we’re exhausted from that other life, i.e., the one we’re not writing. There are many things tugging for our attention. You know them: jobs, finances, relationships, family, kids, kids who make poor choices, parents, parents who are ill, pets, pets that bark at Jehovah Witnesses and bust out windows, lost library books, and even cobwebs and dust bunnies. Escaping into our world of characters and plot might work for a day, but then reality knocks at our office door. (In my case, I no longer have an office; I’m at the end of the dining room table, making me visible to all I live with, sort of like being at Grand Central Station. I’ve invested in a cheap pair of headphones and they seem to block out the activity around me.)
But sometimes I just have to leave the feisty pets, the dust bunnies and the others I live with, and get out of the house. If life has made me too discouraged to do what I love—-to write, then I need time to think things through. I call it “having tea with my characters”. As I walk on a favorite park trail, I think about how each one of my characters would react if I invited them to a party with those finger sandwiches and my favorite Earl Grey. I take mental notes. If I had one of those smart phones, I could record my notes, but instead I rely on memory and the minute I get back to my car, I write down everything. Bits of conversations as tea was served, a new phrase Aunt Kazuko coined when she sat at the dinette table, the color of the sky when Nathan confessed that he missed Lucy, the brokenness Papa held when carted off to an internment camp.
Going on a long walk when you’re overwhelmed by life is therapeutic. Often it’s my characters that help me get back on track. They struggle, I struggle. They remind me that nothing great is ever achieved through giving up. All together, we fight for me to finish my novel.
This is how my newest release was written; when that other life made me feel downhearted, I pressed on with a little help from moving away from the dining room table, heading outdoors, and having tea with my characters.
~ Alice J. Wisler (represented by MacGregor Literary) is an award-winning author of five novels, including the newest that was just released, Under the Silk Hibiscus, a story set in a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II. Visit her website: http://www.alicewisler.com