Don’t Push The River; It Flows By Itself: Creativity and Deadlines
Sometimes, there are no words. It’s that simple. There are entire days, sometimes stretching to weeks, when putting together an intelligent sentence is a remarkable challenge. Most often these days occur when I’m writing a synopsis.
A synopsis is a story summary. Picture me sitting down over coffee one morning to give you a blow by blow of everything that’s going to happen in my new book. That’s a synopsis.
Editors expect to see a synopsis with every book I write. After all, they want to be sure this is a book they’ll be happy to publish. They also want to be sure another author isn’t writing a novel for them that’s stunningly similar. It does happen. After all ideas are out there for anyone to pluck from the idea tree. Sometimes we leap for the same one.
Right now I’m writing the synopsis for Sunset Bridge, my summer 2011 novel for Mira Books. I honestly thought the synopsis would be simple, since I knew so many things that were going to happen. Unfortunately 60 something books into this career, I still make that mistake. Nothing about telling a story is simple, nor should it be. You think I’d remember.
This week I’ve been horribly stuck. Stuck, as in, noting the position of every blade of grass in my back yard. Stuck, as in, playing endless games of Jewel Quest 3 instead of staring at a blank computer screen. And stuck, as in giving up.
In the end, that’s what I did. Because I had another project looming, I decided to abandon my office for my sewing room, and once decided, I couldn’t leave quickly enough. I had to finish my stockings for the Season of Grace block of the month project I’m doing with quilt designer Pat Sloan. Since I wasn’t writing anyway, escape sounded promising.
I stalked into the sewing room with the idea of thinking about my synopsis while I pinned and stitched. I forgot the story the moment I crossed the threshold. Instead I sewed and listened to a paranormal mystery, as different from Sunset Bridge as Twilight is from The Help. Not once did I think about my book, but when I took my evening walk with my husband, I outlined exactly what was going to happen next, beginning to end, who the new characters were and why they’d arrived. The problems had resolved themselves.
I’m back at work on the novel now, and the stockings are finished. The synopsis is going well, although it’s still a tender young thing. I’ve learned my lesson, though. Creativity is a river inside us. As the Chinese proverb warns: “Don’t push the river; it flows by itself.” It does indeed, if we get out of the way and let it. Sometimes dipping our toes in the water from another section of the riverbank is all we need.
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