It’s only 8:52, and already I have cried this morning. Damn you, GMA, and your heartwrenching Valentine’s Day stories! They get me every year.
So, yes, it’s Valentine’s Day. Remember when we were little (and by We I do mean all of us, although when I was little many of you were not even zygotes) and Valentine’s was a strictly romantic holiday? I swear I go off on this rant every year, but when did V-Day become about giving cards not only to your sweetie, but also your parents and grandparents and mailman and realtor? It just seems kind of extreme to me, as well as a bit manipulative by the card people. Anyway, at this point I feel like the whole thing has just become a little island in the middle of February everyone clings to desperately, just because the Superbowl is over and there’s nothing really on the horizon except President’s Day, and who gives cards for that? (Give them a couple of years, though: mark my words, we’ll all be giving our parents gifts for Lincoln’s b-day. See how it works?)
Aside from all the card issues, I feel like Vday has become a lot like New Year’s Eve, at least for me: you always feel like everyone else is doing something fancy and glamorous, and so the pressure’s on to do the same. Well, not this year. I have big plans to spend my evening with my husband, grilling out something tasty and most likely watching Gilmore Girls, followed by The Forty Year Old Virgin. Okay, so it’s not diamonds, roses and caviar. But it’s exactly what I want. And how often can you say that?
Speaking of things going well (or not) someone asked yesterday if I had any advice about what to do when you’re working on a book (or story) and it suddenly feels like it’s falling apart, like you need to change everything to make it work. What should you do? Well, first, I’d take a deep breath. And then another one. And then, I’d ask myself how much I can trust my take on the story right at that moment. I mean, if you’re any way past the middle and you’ve been working for awhile, I would advise against doing anything rash, like cutting characters or plotlines. It’s always my first (and worst) instinct to panic when something suddenly isn’t working: I start messing with everything, trying to find where I lost my momentum, and in the process usually manage to mess up a lot of stuff that was just fine as it was. Sometimes, you just have to trust yourself, and wait. Go do something else, try to forget about the story for a couple of days. And then, when you least expect it, like when you’re buying bananas or balancing your checkbook, boom! The answer appears. Like Tom Petty said, the waiting is the hardest part.
If, however, you wait and nothing comes, and you’re still uninspired, what I usually do is go back to the last place I felt really good about what I was writing. The last scene where everything was clicking and rolling and good. And then look at what you did NEXT: did someone new come in? Or some big event happen? Maybe that’s your problem. Try another way. And then, another. It’s like when you get lost driving. The best thing is to go back to the last place you recognize. If, by that church on the corner, you went left, go right. Maybe that’s the better way. You’ll never know until you try, at any rate.
Man. Why is it that everytime I try to offer writing advice I just go on, and on, and never manage to say exactly what I want? It’s a good thing I don’t do this for a living. Um, anymore. Gulp.