Today’s gift is a guest post by author Eva Lesko Natiello, who you’ll be getting to know better as she shares her writing, editing, and publishing journey for her new book, The Memory Box. I’m honored to be working with Eva on editing this fascinating story, and I’m excited to share her essay about writer’s block and creative inspiration with you. Take it away, Eva:
Stormy with a Chance of Writing
I love reading about the daily writing routines of famous authors. Franz Kafka, for instance, almost never sat down to write before 11 o’clock at night, and then only for an hour or two. He was urged by others to reorganize his day to be more efficient, that he could write more if he wasn’t such a “waster of time.” But his routine suited him fine, and so it stuck. It got me thinking about my own routine. Once I forced myself to really think about what I do every day as a writer, I was hugely relieved to discover I actually have a routine! Boy, I gotta tell you, that felt good. That means something.
First thing in the morning, I sit at my computer and read yesterday’s work and edit. This makes me happy. I love to edit. I liken it to decorating. The house is built, the walls are up, the place is painted, and now it’s time to hang some art and move some furniture around. Sometimes the furniture is clunky, and it doesn’t really fit where you want it to, so you take a deep breath, bend your knees and lift with your legs, and take out the ugly side table in the corner to make some room, and by golly, it all works out.
After editing I break for a cup of whole leaf organic ginseng tea, mostly because it is known to naturally stimulate brain cells. Also, it’s widely known that Native American shaman would steep whole leaf ginseng before sending their spirits out to seek greater knowledge and understanding. (This isn’t actually true. I just made that up. But it sounds like something a Native American shaman would do, given the opportunity, doesn’t it?)
I bring my tea back to the computer to develop my story and write anew. This is when I typically jump write in, oops, right in, because I have a great idea. If I don’t have a great idea, I wait for a one to come. I’m usually quite patient. If after a decent amount of time has passed and it still hasn’t arrived, I sit on the floor of my den, lotus-style, in a circle of my ten favorite (best-selling!) books and chant with my eyes closed: I before E except after C, I before E except after C . . . well, that was before spell check existed. Nowadays that chant is useless. So instead, I chant: I am a writer, That’s what I do, om, It’s not always easy, In fact it rarely is, om, In fact it never is, om, Then why do I do it?, om, To avoid doing the laundry, om, That’s not true, om, Then what is it?, om, Leave me alone!
I get off the floor and sit back at my desk. If after waiting sort of patiently and no ideas are forthcoming, I go upstairs to use my neti pot to free up my sinus passages so oxygen can move freely to my brain. I blow my nose and return to the computer. Now if nothing happens after a minute or two max, I check the weather online. Of course I can just look out the window! But I like to know what’s coming, a forecast. After the weather check I go back to this fresh stuff I’m writing. If nothing happens right away, I check the weather again. Honestly, it’s possible for me to check the weather eight or nine times a day. But let me be clear. I am not a storm-tracker, like a friend of mine. Not only does he track current storms, he watches the great storms of the 70s. No, I’m not kidding. I know it’s crazy. And a complete waste of time. If you really need to watch something from the 70s, there are plenty of Welcome Back, Kotter episodes still on rerun.
Now, you may have noticed I haven’t checked my emails or gone on Facebook this entire time. Even in this writing-block phase of my day. That’s because I’m lying. Of course I’ve checked my emails. I even wrote myself one. And sent it. And then read it. I usually check my email and Facebook before I check the weather. (The first time.) (And between the third and fourth time.)
Today, while I was checking the weather for the fifth time, the forecast for the weekend had changed. They were now predicting a huge storm. Out of nowhere. I looked out my window and I could see the stormy skies already rolling in. It would be mostly ice. Horrendous ice. The skies were gonna dump huge quantities of ice. Stay in the house! Don’t drive! Every local news report warned people not to get in their cars, by any means. This got me thinking about my protagonist. He was not the brightest firecracker on the Christmas tree, if you know what I mean, and I could actually see him getting into his car in the middle of an ice storm, against every warning not to. (If not smart, he is valiant and charming; trust me, you’ll love him!) What if he got stuck in an ice storm while driving on the George Washington Bridge? And some poor guy a few cars ahead of him swerved out of control on a slick of ice causing a seventeen car pile-up, of which my protagonist’s car was one. And then because miles upon miles of the New Jersey Turnpike became a parking lot of pile-ups, no one could move off the George Washington Bridge until those wrecked cars were hauled away. So there he’d be, trapped on a swaying bridge (okay, not really swaying) over the Hudson River in the biggest freaking nor’easter ice storm in history. And what if my protagonist, after being stranded in his car for hours, had to pee, and he got out of his car to relieve himself somewhere. I don’t know where! Why wouldn’t he just stay in his car, where at least he had some privacy? He had nothing to pee into, that’s why! Maybe I should work this part out privately before I tell you any more of the story.
The point is, thank God I checked the weather and discovered the new forecast: stormy with a chance of writing.
Eva Lesko Natiello is a native New Yorker who wrote her forthcoming suspense novel, The Memory Box, as a result of relocating to the New Jersey suburbs. She is a self-proclaimed curious observationist whose oddball musings can be read on evanatiello.com. She also contributes to a parenting blog on nj.com. Eva improvs songs as a way to dialogue with her kids. They find it infrequently entertaining. Her short story, The Wordsmith, was a finalist in The Writer Magazine 2012 Best Short Story. You can find her on facebook and twitter.
Stormy with a Chance of Writing first appeared on redroom.com in March 2012.
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Candace Johnson is a professional freelance editor, proofreader, writer, ghostwriter, and writing coach who has worked with traditional publishers, self-published authors, and independent book packagers on nonfiction subjects ranging from memoirs to alternative medical treatments to self-help, and on fiction ranging from romance to paranormal. As an editorial specialist, Candace is passionate about offering her clients the opportunity to take their work to the next level. She believes in maintaining an author’s unique voice while helping him or her create and polish every sentence to make it the best it can be. Learn more here.
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