Monday, July 12, 2010

Lighting the Fuse

Post by Jenny

I spent the Fourth of July at a family reunion in Topeka, Kansas. Say what you will about eastern Kansas in July, but it’s a firework lover’s paradise. As far as I can tell, everything is legal. My sons went to the firework stands with their (much older) cousins and came back with enormous smiles and pyrotechnics the size of car batteries. Like shoes and cars, fireworks have names, and these ranged from the regionally appropriate (“Topeka Twister”) to the unimaginative (“Wow!”) to the inexplicable (“Who’s Yo Daddy?”).

A steady rain fell all day on the Fourth, but at sunset, the firework gods smiled on us, and the clouds parted. My family and I walked to the neighborhood park, where two of the more responsible adults among us set about burning up the equivalent of a month’s worth of grocery money.

There’s something special about the moment a fuse ignites. I love not knowing exactly what will happen. Will it bring a sparkling shower of multicolored light or a series of banshee shrieks? Will it be a bright, intense burn or a softer, more gradual glow? And what might a “Who’s Yo Daddy?” look like?

The phrase “light a fuse” means to get something started, to awaken, to excite. I realized as I watched the fireworks that I have not felt that crackling-fuse energy in my writing for a while now. I’ve been in turtle mode—working at a slow, steady pace, doing what needs to be done…and not having much fun in the process. It’s been a long time since I had a day when I was either sitting at my computer writing or counting the minutes until I could get back to it.

Fortunately, there is a cure for my lack of spark, one so obvious you’ve probably already identified it: write. Anything. It doesn’t have to be the world’s next great novel. I don’t have to know the end result before I begin. All I need to do is put a match to the writing fuse and see what happens. I can even revisit something that’s been resting for a while. Unlike old fireworks, old projects often retain a great deal of energy just waiting to be rekindled. And if I am completely stuck, I can turn to the internet for hundreds of writing prompts and other assorted inspirations.

Does your writing ever lose its spark? How do you get it back?


Donna M. Kohlstrom said...

My sparkler died! For weeks I haven't been able to find another one to light! I hate being in the unproductive, "I can find a million excuses and diversions not to write." mode! UGH!

Today is the first day that I've been handed another sparkler to light and hopefully it will turn into a fabulous explosion of fireworks!

Amy Frazier said...

I love the comment you make about old projects, unlike old firecrackers, retaining their energy. Perhaps some of them even have short fuses and are just waiting to blaze into glory...

Helen Ginger said...

I've had that happen. Usually I take time off from writing then when I begin to feel the itch again, I get out an old manuscript and re-read. I begin to see things that could be better and I slowly get in the mood and spirit to write again.

Lynn Carlson said...

Sparks, yes, I love that feeling too, and wish I had it more often. Like you said, just writing sometimes gets it going. Sometimes I feel a spark in a most unexpected place, like in my car, driving through the long Wyoming expanses. Or sometimes a word gives me a jolt and I go to the dictionary and spend some time with the word and its meanings.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Your fireworks display sounded like fun.

I’ve been in the turtle mode as well. It seems I am easily distracted these days. I’m not doing anything special to get out of it other than parking myself in front of the computer daily and hoping I get into the ‘zone.’

Jenny S. said...

Thanks for your comments.

Fireworks aside, maybe it's hard to keep a spark during the summer. But keep trying, because once it catches, watch out!


Patricia Stoltey said...

Absolutely -- I was in the same place until about a week ago when the book and its characters started nagging me again. Helen describes it's an itch. And the only way to scratch it is to sit down and write. It

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