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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Analysis Paralysis

Personal Weather Report - Sunny with refreshing breezes

Writing Activity - The rewrite of my Historical Inspirational #3 is at 16,000/100,000 words.

Ever struggled to find just the right word to express a thought? It's there. You know it. But it eludes you.

Frustrating, isn't it?

Happens to me too. However, I've learned to drop in the closest word I can think of, even if it isn't exactly the one I was after, in order to keep the conversation going. This beats grinding my teeth, smacking a palm to my forehead and keeping someone waiting while I search the many files stored in my rather cluttered mind.

Realizing my internal hard drive is nearly fifty years old and that I've got zillions of bytes stored in my beleaguered brain, I allow time for my mind to perform the search. Sure, I may not come up with the exact word I wanted until hours after the conversation ended, but it will come, and perhaps I can use it the next time.

I experience the same phenomenon when I'm writing. The words may be flowing from my fingertips when suddenly I come to a full stop, slamming my creativity into a wall.

What can I do in a situation like this?

1. Sit and stare at the screen while waiting for inspiration.
2. Riffle through my Roget's or dive into the dictionary.
3. Pull out my hair, hoping I only dislodge gray strands.
4. Ask my daughter for help.


The last option has worked on occasion; however, the Fashion Queen is often at school when I'm writing.

What I do is make a note and move on. My manuscript looks something like this:

It was a dark and >>INSERT ADJECTIVE<< night.

The same thing can happen when I'm working on one of my Historicals set in the 1870s and encounter a fact I need to verify. In that case, rather than stop to perform the research right then, I insert a reminder, like this:

"Hello >>IS THIS WORD PERIOD?<<, Prudence. You're looking lovely today. New frock?"

or this


He spied the cut barbed wire >>INVENTED YET?<< and groaned. Who could have done this?

The idea is to keep my creative side in high gear and not let my editor side take over. Later, when I return to read through the manuscript, I may see one of my notes and think of just the right word.

When I'm feeling less than inspired and need a break, I can search for the special characters I've inserted, consult my references, find the facts I need and work them into my story.

I still suffer from analysis paralysis at times, but at least I now have a plan to combat it. By making the notes and moving on, I stay in the flow and have more fun with my story.

• • • • •

Have you ever struggled to prevent your internal editor from hijacking your writing time? How do you get yourself back on track when that happens?

5 comments:

sherrinda said...

Yesssss! It happens all the time! Of course, I haven't left myself notes in the WIP. I usually struggle to "edit" it right then and there, losing my flow in the process. I love your idea here and will have to see if that works for me!

Anne Barton said...

Hi Keli! I like your method. You've probably picked up on mine. I come up with the best word I can at the moment, and trust that my CP will help me tweak later. ;)

Sharon Ball said...

Keli, I can soooo relate. I'm not published at this point, but I have had many a frustrating day grappling to find the right word. I bought a Flip Dictionary hoping it would help, but even that sometimes isn't enough. Eventually, the word I'm searching for will come, but it can be painfully hard waiting for the right word to pop into my brain.

Keli Gwyn said...

Sherrinda, glad you found the idea helpful.

Anne, I have great CPs who do the same for me.

Sharon, the Flip Dictionary is a cool resource, isn't it? I got myself one at my last writers conference.

Jessica said...

What a good idea Keli! I usually use my hubby to find a word. :-) Lately though, I have been using caps to write a question. It def. saves time, because you we'll be going back through anyways and maybe we'll have the perfect word the second time around. So, yeah, this happens to me. :-)
Thanks for sharing your process. Very helpful.