(RE)STARTING YOUR ENGINE

4618c-bonnie

Bonnie Schroeder started telling stories in the Fifth Grade and never stopped. After escaping from the business world, she began writing full-time and has authored novels, short stories and screenplays, as well as non-fiction articles and a newsletter for an American Red Cross chapter.

 

 

(RE)STARTING YOUR ENGINE

I was on an author panel recently, and a member of the audience asked us if we wrote every day. The other panelists confirmed that they did, and I had to confess that I do not. I know, call me Slacker.

 
It’s not like I don’t enjoy writing—most of the time. I usually have plenty of ideas of what to write, I know where my work in progress is heading, and I WANT to sit down and write, but there are days when it just doesn’t happen. The phone rings—Caller ID tells me it’s a friend I haven’t heard from in weeks, so of course I must answer. Or the computer goes on the fritz and I spend an hour in Help Desk Hell, listening to a robovoice assure me that my call is very important, so please stay on the line for the next available representative. Or the dog begs me for a walk with an irresistible, pleading expression on her furry face.

 
And there go my good intentions right out the window.

 
Generally, I make up for lost time, sooner or later. I turn off the phone, let the dog amuse herself in the yard for a while, and swear off Facebook until I’ve done at least 1000 words or put in an hour of writing, whichever comes first.

 
Recently, however, everything ground to a screeching halt—not for a day, or even a week.

 
For a month.

 
I had a good excuse: hip surgery. The surgery itself was uncomplicated and successful, and I’m making a rapid recovery. But in the days leading up to it, I had too many things to think about besides my current work in progress, where I was a little over the halfway point.

 
Post-surgery, there were many more distractions: follow-up doctor appointments, physical therapy, and fatigue that demanded frequent naps. Additionally, for a while I needed heavy-duty prescription pain meds—a creativity-killer if ever there was one. The opioid fog began to clear, but I still felt apathetic about writing. I’d abandoned the unfinished novel at a point where I wasn’t sure exactly what should happen next, which was a huge tactical error, but by then it was too late to remedy it.

 
I stared at the pile of pages on my writing table, overwhelmed with hopelessness. The novel reminded me of a car with a dead battery; the parts were all there, but the battery was drained and the vehicle was just a cold, unresponsive lump of metal—or, in this case, paper. Stalled car

At that point, I gave in to despair. Why bother? Who cares? Does the world even need another book from me?

 
Then I remembered that some people did care: my writers’ critique group. I soon would owe them 30 pages of new work. With that deadline looming, I sighed. How could I let them down? I must at least try to produce something for them. So I picked up the pages and re-read what I’d written before I went under the knife, all the while laughing at my foolish assumption that I would “catch up on my writing” while I was recuperating.

 
The pages I’d already written weren’t bad, and I’d gotten some positive feedback from my fellow writers. I started writing down words, reminding myself that if  I simply put them on paper, I’d have something to work on, something to build on and edit. I remembered a valuable saying: You can’t fix what’s not on the page.

 
I knew this approach as surely as I knew my own name, so I gritted my teeth and ground out five pages. They seemed flat and pointless. But at least I had something to show for my time and effort. And as I read over what I’d written, I had an idea for how to make them better. A flicker of hope beckoned. Hey, maybe this wasn’t a lost cause.

 

I wrote a few additional pages, and the more I wrote, the more ideas started to flow. First a trickle, then a stream. I lost track of time as I scribbled the outline of what needed to happen next, and a delicious enthusiasm flowed over me, that feeling I’d begun to fear was lost for good. That poor old dead engine had finally turned over. It sputtered a few times, but then it started chugging along.

 
I still have a long way to go to “The End,” but if I hadn’t sat down and made myself pretend to be a writer again, the muse would not have whispered in my ear. Why try and talk to someone who’s not listening?

 
So you see, magic can still happen. Believe in it. You may think the game is lost, but there’s always the chance it isn’t over yet. There may be a tiny spark of life left in that engine after all, but you won’t know unless you fiddle around with it a while.

Anybody out there who had to abandon a project and then fought to resurrect it after some time had passed? How did you get going again, or did you? Or perhaps now you’re thinking, maybe you will . . .?

 

12 thoughts on “(RE)STARTING YOUR ENGINE”

  1. So glad to hear, magic can still happen–and YES, the world does need/want/looking forward to a new novel from you. Inspirational post, and just what I needed this morning. Water was off this morning, dog coughing, what for breakfast, etc., etc…I needed inspiration, or was it a kick in the butt! Great post, and glad you’re coming back from your surgery (which I consider a very big deal indeed!)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can certainly understand needing to take a break, especially for health reasons, but I’m so glad you’re back to writing again. And your great post was an inspiration to me, too. I’ve a lot going on during this holiday season and haven’t been as diligent about my writing as I’d like to be–but hope to improve that now!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Excuses are easy to come by, huh? But you are the most diligent and prolific writer I know, so you must be able to overcome those roadblocks!

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  3. Your post brought back memories. I doubt I wrote more than a page in the last three months of 2016 due to travel and then the holidays, reasoning I would buckle down, do a NaNoWriMo and finish my novel in January. Then minutes after midnight on New Year’s Eve I fell and injured my leg and wrist – no writing for a month! But like you, I finally began again. The muse let my words flow and I typed The End two weeks before my deadline of June first. There seems to be a common thread in many of our posts recently: Keep Writing! (and having read early chapters from your work in progress, I ditto MM – we want another novel from you).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Miko! Yes, let’s make “Keep Writing” our mantra. One foot in front of the other, one step after another, and we eventually reach our goal if we keep going. Glad you are one of my motivators!

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  4. Life has a way of getting in the way and there is no way around it… Is that too many ways to procrastinate? No. It’s life. But you still have that desire to get back into your writing life and are moving forward. Good. I have a book I have been working on for years. Wrote an outline. (For me an outline is almost like a series of hurdles. Maybe I am more of a pantster than an outliner. But I digress.) Anyway. While I wasn’t writing that novel, I turned out another short story collection and the Chance McCoy book. Those pushed to the front of the line and I took care of them. Now I am back to this other novel. I’ll work on it this winter. Since I have no other story that I have to write first, I’ll probably get it finished. Of course there are those three kind of cute screenplays I wrote decades ago that I want to turn into a three-story novella collection. You see, life does get in the way. But you still have that great story inside. We all love the premise. We will see it when you are finished. Not to worry.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank, GB. You and Linda J seem to have cracked the persistence code. I’m still working on it, but with fellow writers like you as role models, I feel like I have a fighting chance.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for the “confession” time, Bonnie. Yikes, you were bold! But the fumbling and sighing turned out great at the end… just like a good movie, or… your next book. From the bits you’ve shared with us, I am VERY interested to read this story! Hey, what’s a new hip to a talented author!

    Liked by 1 person

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