I'm not like some authors. I don't have characters screaming in my head, begging me to write their stories. I do have a long list of possible premises in my files, each one associated with a set of potential characters. However, I find that characters don't really become real to me until I begin writing. At that point, they unfold, revealing themselves to me chapter by chapter as they find their way through my fictional world.
Lately, I've been suffering from what I call "constipation of the imagination". This condition manifests itself mainly by the difficulties I'm having getting started on new projects. I have three projects lined up, two with hard deadlines, but until this weekend, I hadn't written a word on any of them.
I had done some research. I'd spent several hours (collectively) on the elliptical trainer, blocking out scenes and considering plot details. I even sat down and wrote a free story, trying to get the words flowing. Deep down, though, I knew that I was simply procrastinating, avoiding the point where I'd begin a new work.
This weekend, I got out my figurative whip and beat myself into submission. I tried something that other authors have recommended but which I've never attempted, namely, creating some formal character profiles. Usually I know only a few facts about a character when I start a book. When I need to know more, I ask them. In this case, I wrote down every detail I could dredge up about my hero and heroine: their appearance, socioeconomic background, education, strengths, weaknesses, strongest desires, greatest fears. I did mini-profiles for the secondary characters. Then I sat down and forced myself to write that first sentence.
Once I actually started, everything became much easier. I wrote 5000 words in two afternoons. Now I'm eager to push the story forward, but the real world is interfering! I won't have a chunk of writing time until the end of the week. Meanwhile, scenes and conversations are whirling in my mind. I'm praying that the inspiration stays fresh for the next few days, until I can get back into the story and my characters' heads.
Meanwhile, though, I feel a tremendous sense of relief. I worried, as all authors do on occasion, that my talent had deserted me. I was facing some kind of psychological barrier--I don't know why and I guess, ultimately, I don't care--but now I've pushed past it. The story is unfolding, and it's going to be deep and hot, the way I like it.
I'm looking forward to finishing, so that I can start my next project.
For those of you who also write--what do you do when your creative pipes are clogged? What are your strategies for freeing your imagination?