Anyone seen my Mojo lately?

by Debra Chappell

View from the front porch:

 Mood Reading:  ZZZZ’s (must have been pooped!)

OKAY! I admit it, I lost my Mojo for 2 weeks there.  I think I left it in the same place where I usually misplace my glasses and keys.  I tried to find it on several occasions but was interrupted by a hectic trip to Oregon with the hubby (chasing pole vaulters around at the Prefontaine Classic track meet) and then upon return home, just plain couldn’t remember where I put it.

Hey, it happens… in sports, in sex, and yes, in writing.  Sometimes you just can’t get the ol’ rhythm going again.  At least in the first two, there are usually tried and true physical means to rev things up again, get you stimulated, with a big heave ho you can put yourself back on top of your game (if you get my drift.)

But overcoming an unwieldy mental blockage is the exact opposite process, at least to my way of thinking… which indeed may be half the problem! In the case of the latter,  you just have to let it all go, relax, let the mind wander…daydream a bit if you will.  Clear your head of all but the necessary and let the ideas seep in slowly at first, meld and marinate, then finally build to a steady stream of flowing, technicolor, panoramic creative visions just bursting to get out of your imagination and onto the page.

Humpf! Sometimes that’s pretty frickin’ hard to do when you’re waylaid by literally running all out through the Pacific Northwest airport – making your 6:00 am flight by  the skin of your teeth ‘cause the hubby insisted on that second cup of cappucino before take off – totally underestimating the pre-dawn 4 mile line through security (are you listening Mr. Chappell), and then arriving home bushwacked, exhausted, and gasping for air!

I know, I know, that’s more than a little unfair.  That short, chaotic side-trip played little or no significant role in my creative drought, but I’d like to think it certainly didn’t help. Add to it my old friends/foes who drop in every so often unannounced and unwelcome – procrastination and creative avoidance – and voila!  You’ve got yourself a full blown case of mental constipation.  To make matters worse, I found myself breathless at the kitchen counter in between my suddenly oh-so-important gardening job and urgent dog-walking responsibilities only to stress inordinately over why nothing was coming to me, and wondering if I’m cut out to be an author at all in the first place!!

Ah well, such is the “creative life”.  The truth of the matter is, sometimes ya just gotta sit yourself down at the computer and gut it out – sans freeflow, sans butterflies, and totally parched of any streaming creative juices.  I soon discovered what was actually “blocking” me. I knew I couldn’t proceed without an outline of the second half of my novel that my editor and I agreed was now necessary. The old story line and new plot narrative were colliding just past the midway point.  She suggested I create an outline of the remainder of the book, including scenes, dialogue, conflict resolutions etc. in detail.

Right, no problem.  Humm, if I can only figure out where to start…  When I wrote the thing to begin with, I just sat down and started writing and let the story take me where ever it wanted, and where it ended up is where it ended period. Now though, I have sub-plot, foreshadowing, and new storyline to contend with and the last half doesn’t quite fit with the newly created first half – hence the need for something called “mapping out”, which translates to “planning ahead” – an idea completely foreign to me.

So, like any good procrastinator worth their salt,  before you know it, I’m off to Oregon trailing around the hubby with 15’ vaulting poles in tow like I don’t have anything better to do or a care in the world. Finally, last week I took myself up to the mountain cabin where there are no flowerbeds calling my name, no travel temptations, no internet, no facebook and no phone, no pool, no pets…oh wait, that’s King of the Road.

Anyway, on a pile of 5 X 8 index cards I wrote down every scene, every dialogue passage worth retaining, a few new scenes, chunks of narrative I still liked, and several physical descriptions of places still salvageable, (that alone took me two days) and mixed in the random ideas I’d written on airline napkins and some old receipts I jotted a few thoughts on along the way, and started sorting.  I played with the sequences, mixing them all up, much like 52 pick-up – the card game we played as kids.  Then I sat in the middle of the whole mess with my laptop for another day and a half and just started typing. Amazingly, and much to my great relief, what emerged was a pretty detailed, complete, and orderly outline of the rest of the story! Wow, who knew?  This whole idea of “planning ahead”…could be on to something!

A few days later and I’m  still at it, back in my comfort zone at the kitchen counter.  Even felt like getting off this blog post this morning so I think that means I’m through the worst of it.  The weather’s beautiful outside, the birds are chirping and the dog is begging for a walk, but I’m not even tempted – got plenty to do and am tapping away happily.  I have no illusions that the whole episode will be my last with the nefarious and famed “writer’s block”, but now that I’m moving forward again, I won’t be stopping too long in one place or voluntarily stepping out of the zone again anytime soon…just want to keep this noodle humming as long as I can!

Now,  if only I could find my car keys!