Wednesday, August 3, 2011

When You Can't Retreat, Vacation!

I found myself on an impromptu mini-vacation this weekend. Naturally there are certain items I never leave town without. At minimum, it’s several books, a couple of notebooks, a couple of sketchbooks, and – last, but not least – my computer.

Because for me, the word “vacation” is synonymous with “writer’s retreat.”

Since this was just going to be a weekend trip with only one full day actually spent out of town and because it was a big group of people going, making this - in theory – a social vacation, I didn’t really think I’d get any writing done.

Surprisingly (or maybe not so surprising considering I’m me), I did manage to get in a few hours of alone time with my computer. My borderline-reclusive leanings helped in this regards. But seriously, watching a movie together doesn’t really count as a social activity, right? So it was okay to skip out on that. And I played a round of dominoes on Friday night so I didn’t need to join in on a game of cards on Saturday.

I’m happy that I went back to my room, slipped on my earphones and commenced to writing because I had a pretty exciting character revelation as I tipity-tapped away on my keyboard. This thing that I realized fits right in with the other dynamics already on the table for these characters and the back story that’s already been established, and while it doesn’t change the events I foresee writing in future chapters, it adds to everything an undercurrent so awesome that it makes me want to hug myself and squeal with glee whilst I do a little happy dance.

I’ve been working on this story for what feels like a lot longer than what should have been necessary, and it has been a pain in the butt to write, I mean really. It. Has. Sucked. But now I’m thinking, maybe I’m glad I didn’t finish it sooner. If it took me this long to come to this wonderful, wonderful realization, maybe it’s better I didn’t finish it months ago…but if I had finished it months ago, would I have come to this realization anyway?….or maybe the story would have been completely different because I would have never hit upon other slow-to-come realizations and therefore I would have never reached this weekend’s awesome insight? And oh, the circles of thought continue to go round.

It’s the same thing I wondered when I used to wait to the very last minute to write what turned out to be an excellent paper in college. Did it turn out brilliant because I waited until 2am to write something due for my 8am class? Would I have been able to string these same thoughts together if I did it slowly over the course of the several weeks I was given?

Inspiration, when it comes to putting together a story, is a series of thoughts falling into each other like dominoes, except that it isn’t a single, predetermined line of dominoes but a journey with many forks in the road that could lead you anywhere. At least that's how it seems to me; and sometimes, they’re slow to fall.

I don’t exactly advocate waiting for the muse to hit you upside the head with inspiration, but I do believe that there are times when you just can’t – or shouldn’t – push a story that isn’t ready to go anywhere. Like so many things, it’s about learning to balance between the two, getting a feel for when to push on through to the other side or when to take a break.

I’ll tell you one thing. When the dominoes are consistently slow to fall, when you have to stop pushing and take a break for no other reason but for the sake of your sanity, it really makes you appreciate every page, every little line of dialogue, every period at the end of a sentence, every space between two words.

Image by Justina Kochansky/

There has been many a day that I’ve hated this particular story. Capital H-A-T-E-D, HATED with a deep-seeded passion that sat in the core of my being like a lump of dry, stale bread stuck in my throat, but on the other hand, by the time I get to the end of it - if I ever get to the end of it – I think I’ll really feel like I’ve earned this story. That this story decided that I was going to work for and, boy, have I—like a dog works for his tail.

…I just hope it doesn’t suck.

Webcomic Update: Preview of First Completed Page Posted! (Click on image for larger version)