Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Finding Your Inner Puppy by Shannon Baker


You guys know the scene. Distraught writer sitting in a pool of light from her laptop in the pre-dawn darkness. Tap, tap. Pause. Tap. Pause. PAAAAAUUUUSE. Sigh. Shift. Sip coffee. Tap, tap. Rinse. Repeat.

I had to drag every single syllable from the basement of my brain with bowling balls attached to them. Time slid by and the word count flatlined. The dog—the relentless, demanding, who-agreed-to-dogsit-a-beast-with-a-morning-walk-routine, dog—stood in front of me wagging her tail, panting and making it plain the walk deadline had arrived.

Timber clearly didn’t understand my dilemma. Nora needed to be in the empty farmhouse in the middle of the night so the villain could pull a gun on her. But how was I going to get her there in a plausible—or at least plausible in the mystery world—way? Time was running out. Not for Nora, but for me, who has a regular life and day job and a word count woefully unfulfilled.

Sentient beings can be so distracting and inspiration so illusive. I slapped the laptop closed, dressed, and in a grumbling fit of impatience, rounded up my snowshoes, poles, and the gators hiding at the very bottom of the winter accouterments box where I’d tossed them last spring.

We had the first big snow dump of the season the night before and I was not looking forward to trudging through a freezing forest in the gray dawn. Not. At. All.

Timber, on the other hand, was ecstatic. She raced ahead, dodged trees, dug and scooted and zoomed, acting way more like a puppy than the her fourteen years on this Earth would belie.

The crisp air started to blow away the heaviness of my mind. I laughed at Timber’s antics and bypassed the short loop, deciding my plotter’s brain needed fresh air and exertion to problem solve. Natalie Goldberg, among others, recommends walks to jumpstart inspiration. My solution rested just beyond that snow-crusted pine.

The sun burst through the morning clouds sparking snow diamonds and dazzling the forest around us. I spent so much energy I had endorphins dancing through my system all day. And I felt good. No more grumpy-gloomies.

I know you were all expecting that when I found my inner-puppy the answer to my plot tangle would miraculously present itself. It didn’t. But I was a better human being for letting go of the frustration and gaining clearer perspective. The words won’t come by damming myself with a wall of frustration. Even if the floodgates don’t open because of my commune with nature and Timber, I’m sure my coworkers and the Man With Endless Tolerance (MWET) were pleased with my improved attitude.

It wasn’t until much later, while sitting in the hot tub listening (or making a face as if I were listening) to MWET discuss the pros and cons of refinancing and the likelihood of renting as opposed to selling, I had my Eureka! moment. Perhaps my slacker imagination enjoyed the mini vacation and coughed up the nugget I needed as reward. Probably not. At any rate the romp in the snow didn’t hurt and it might have helped.

What about you? What do you do when the words won’t come?

(Originally published on the Inkspot blog, December 9, 2011)

About the Writer: Shannon Baker has a right brain/left brain conflict. While the left brain focuses on her career as an accountant, her right brain concocts thrillers, including her 2010 release, Ashes of the Red Heifer. A lover of mountains, plains, oceans and rivers, she can often be found traipsing around the great outdoors. The first book in the Nora Abbott Mystery Series will release in the March 2013 from Midnight Ink publishers.