The Stories We Tell

I had planned to spend the entire weekend writing a short story. Unfortunately, my story had other ideas. Turns out that the story idea I’d envisioned isn’t a short story at all. It’s a novella. And while I like the story and think it’s going to be a good one, it doesn’t fit the requirements for the contest I’d been writing for. So…I’m back to square one. I’ll be working this week on finding a more narrowly focused story. Eventually, I’ll come back to my novella idea, but for now it’ll go on the shelf to make room for something new.

In order to switch mental gears, I need to clear my thoughts. Every story for me begins with daydreaming. But in order to daydream about something new, I have to empty my head of the old. Three things are effective ways of accomplishing this. And they sort of need to be done in order. Call it a ritual if you want. I just know this is what works.

  1. Take several hours to do a repetitive task that you don’t do every day. Knitting. Making jewelry. Woodworking. Gardening. It doesn’t matter what it is, but the more repetitive it is the better. It should be something that doesn’t require a great deal of thought, but which keeps your body and hands occupied and allows room for your mind to wander free.
  2. Long walks. Outdoors. With music. No talking. Dogs are great for this. Again, it’s rhythmic movement, repetitive, leaving your thoughts open to drift. And by long walks, I mean over an hour.
  3. Quiet Meditation. Be still. Close your eyes. Count your breathing. Relax your body. Silence your mind. Let go of what occupied your thoughts in the past. Find your stillness.

It’s like cleansing your mental palate. Sweeping away the old to make room for the new. I find that if I do these three things, then get a good night’s sleep, I am much more open and able to generate much better and more creative story ideas.

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