At heart I’m a storyteller. I’d like nothing better than to spin tales upon gossamer threads, write so ferociously that my fingers develop callouses as tough as the sole of a hobbit’s foot, and to sweep my readers off on a journey that will both entertain and challenge them. Yet it can be a hard slog carving out time to make this writing dream a reality, because often things happen that make writing time as elusive as the one ring itself.
The Best Laid Plans.
The problem with a plan is you can’t cover every eventuality. This morning I planned to get up at 6am and have at least an hour working quietly on the blog before the family woke up. At 6.15 the first child came out rubbing his eyes, delighted to find he had his mother all to himself…
In a story, thwarting the plan creates good tension. In The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf hasn’t even finished giving Frodo his super-secret-brief when he finds Sam Gamgee ‘not listening‘ outside the window. Not to mention the Fellowship so carefully put-together at the Council of Elrond lasts about five minutes when the chips are down. In fact the most successful plan in the whole story is Frodo’s very vague idea to head in the direction of Mordor and see what happens.
As a writer, I’m learning Frodo’s attitude is pretty good: you just have to keep heading in the general direction and do what you can.
Dealing with Life’s Little Challenges. (Or Overrun by Orcs)
The foes that come against our characters come in all shapes and sizes. If I had to describe the challenges I’ve been facing lately I’d say they are life’s Orcs. Not complex or difficult to overcome, but annoying and arriving en mass.
This week I’ve locked my keys in the car on the main street in town at night, planted a whole heap of seedlings only have half of them blown out of the ground by a freak wind-storm, dug up by cats, or scratched out by the neighbours chickens who found a hole in the fence. In a fit of spring-cleaning madness I sprayed the oven with oven cleaner (that part doesn’t take long) – but when I had to clean it out in a hurry could only find 5 (yes you read that right) left hand kitchen gloves. The top of the plug snapped off while the sink was full of water and I had to pry it out with a knife and I dropped a big tub of crayons and miscellaneous craft objects all over the floor just before dinner guests were due to arrive.
None of these things are a big deal; but they can be time-consuming, frustrating and certainly aren’t productive.
However I love Merry and Pippin’s strategy with Orcs: Keep a low profile and crawl away if you have the opportunity. It’s easy to be distracted by things going awry, but try to keep things in perspective. If things go wrong, do what you have to, but try and protect your writing time too. Sometimes you have to leave the water in the sink and deal with it later.
Everything Including the Kitchen Sink.
Sometimes life throws the most unexpected things at you – including the kitchen sink. The same way writing challenges come in all shapes and forms; plot problems, lack of inspiration, the hard slog of editing, illness, family commitments, unexpected visitors… Whatever form your obstacle takes, consider the dogged determination of your own characters and make a commitment to keep up with them. After all, if we can come up with creative ways to get our characters out of trouble, we can surely come up with ways to overcome any writing challenge.
Have you faced any writing challenges this week?
-by Raewyn Hewitt