Best pal Jane has been visiting over the past week and we’ve had a wonderful time catching up. Yes, we talk on Skype every night, but it’s not the same. Now, sadly, she has gone home to glorious Yorkshire, land of savory puds, tea that could burn through steel, and the Brontes. And I am getting back to writing. Well, trying.
Whenever I’ve been away from my writing for any length of time, I start to get itchy. Not the hives type; the type that can only be cured by the scratch of a pen. Funny, but keyboards and computer screens don’t fit the bill. A typewriter might. There is something tactile about the beat of the key on the page, something rock’n’roll that a laptop just cannot match. By the same token, you can keep your smooth as silk pages and your flowing fountain pens, give me something scratchy. Scratchy is rock’n’roll. I don’t know what smooth is. Andy Williams, maybe, or Michael Buble. But NOT Rock’n’roll, baby.
I suspect I need the rock’n’roll attitude to stimulate my speed of thought. Once my brain has found its groove and the work is flowing, I’m able to think and type at my usual 80-90 words per minute. Yes, OK, on a good day. However, if I’ve been away from the work for a while, it takes me a little while to rev up to it, you dig? (Sorry, Starsky and Hutch reruns. Blame Huggy Bear.) I suppose it’s like running scales if you haven’t played the guitar for a bit. You need to remind your brain and your fingers. Unless you’re, you know, Eric Clapton.
There’s only one rule for the type of stuff I write while I’m getting back into my rhythm. It must be utterly without merit. Character sketches work well, as do bits of dialogue, or passages of description. I seldom try poetry unless it’s very silly. I like writing little bits of things and these can sometimes work their way up to whole scenes. Completely worthless ones, of course. Naturally, I avoid anything to do with the current work in progress. That feels too much like serious work, and right now I’m still playing. This is all sandbox stuff. Humour is good. Humour is fabulous. If I can make myself laugh, I don’t even notice the exercises filling the pages.
Writing scenes for your favourite comedy show, or sketches for your favourite comedian, can be fun, if your mind works that way. Don’t worry if the stuff is rubbish. These are just ways of having fun, after all. It’s not like Billy Connolly is really going to do your routine about the taste of postage stamps. Or sing your rap about Donald Trump’s hair.
The idea of playing in the literary sandbox is to remind yourself why you love writing. It’s to whet your appetite for the project so you’re eager to get back to the task at hand again. This is play time, so go on, play.
Just to add to the entertainment value, you might want to keep a special fun notebook and pen just for this purpose. A journal with different coloured pages, one that you doodle in, use glitter pens, and unleash your inner twelve-year-old upon, is just the thing.
Don’t wait until you’re stuck to have fun in the sandbox, either. Play there on a regular basis. Crank up the stereo, play air guitar, and write your own lyrics to your favourite tunes. I know, it’s only rock’n’roll.
But I like it.