Monday, December 1, 2014
The other morning, the power in my house went out. It was still light outside, so the only reason I noticed is because my fridge dispenser stopped filling my water cup. My first thought was, wow, I use electricity to get cold, filtered water directly from my refrigerator. What would the pioneers think of me? My second thought was that power outages at my home are an unusual event.
It didn’t used to be so. When I was a kid, the power went out much more frequently. When the weather got severe, we prepared for the inevitable outage. Sometimes, we would lose electricity for no apparent reason. The lights just winked out on a whim, plunging us into some degree of darkness. Now that the utility cables are buried in my area, and have been for years, we typically have only the occasional work crew backhoe incident to blame.
These days, I’m more likely to experience a different power outage, the kind where I’m writing along happily, and, bam, everything stops. The flow of words in my head sputters out. My fingers remain curved over the keyboard, waiting….waiting. Nothing.
If I’m working on something that must be finished sooner rather than later, I have no choice but to fire up the figurative emergency generator. Even though it’s not an ideal power source, it’s enough to get the job done. I may not be thrilled with the end product, but at least I got there.
If I have more time, though, I’ll take another approach. When the power went out on a dark winter’s night in my girlhood home, we lit the red candles in the antique brass holders and literally saw things in a different light. The flickering candlelight, not strong enough to chase the shadows from the corners, made everything feel both cozier and more mysterious. My sister and I talked in whispers, feeling that we were very close to the secret world from which stories came.
So now when I’m stuck, I’ll still try to see things in a different light. Maybe literally, with a few reliable candles (if you haven’t tried it, you should), but sometimes by backing up and asking myself how can I (and my character in question) see this problem in another way? Do we need to shed more light on it, or less?
And if I’m really stuck, well, that’s why I have green tea and chocolate in my emergency kit.
How do you restart your writing when the power goes out?