Monday, December 1, 2014

Power Outages

Post by Jenny

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?


Richard Keller said...

I've never had a writing-based power outage. Life/family/head colds have been the things that have kept me from writing. As to actual power outages, we used to have numerous ones in Delaware. I thank the spirits of underground wires for the lack of ones we've experienced in Colorado.

Shirley Drew said...

Love it, Jenny! When I experience a metaphorical power outage, I often work on something else for a while--something that's going along a little easier. That will get the right side of my brain working, and then I can usually go back to the first project.

Kerrie said...

Great post Jenny. I love the idea of looking at things under a different light. What do I do when I have a writing outage? A brisk walk around the block does wonders for clearing my head.

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