No, not you. It’s a message to me, from me, granting permission to step away from the computer screen, to let my brain rest, and mull a plot point over in my brain while I sweep the driveway.
Several drafts in, and I’m again at a pivotal point in my story – the Turning Point. It’s where Maggie, my main character, finds a clue that propels her to the end of the story. I struggled with it for days, trying to help her discover it in a way that is appropriate for her, and believable to the reader.
As I wrestled with this segment, I heaped large quantities of guilt upon myself for not being able to come up with a solution quicker, for taking a break one evening and watching mindless TV, and ignoring my office for one full day. But, I was mulling in my absence, and with a combination of research and time away from the computer, I figured it out. Problem solved.
The clue is on a brick – one of thousands on the underside of a bridge. How could Maggie possibly find THE one? I went back to basics. I researched types of bricks manufactured in the early 1900s, along with the names of companies and their owners. I have a tangible example on my patio, a Purington Paver, from Duluth. It’s a dark reddish-brown, and the raised lettering covers the top surface of every brick that ended up as the sidewalk and small patio of my childhood home.
I leaned against a brick wall at work when I arrived early for a meeting and pretended I was Maggie, leaning against the wall under the bridge. I felt the surface with my hands, and ran them along the wall, pretending to feel the M B carved into the bricks (thank goodness no one saw me). “This will work,” I told myself.
Eager to put my theory to the test, I wrote the rest of the scene that evening. It worked. It’s believable, and it fits Maggie’s character – it’s something she’d do.
If I hadn’t shut down my computer and given another part of me the freedom to explore, my fingers to touch, and my brain time to bring it all into focus, I would never have been able to solve the problem of the clue under the bridge.
The next time this happens (and it will), I’ll remember to cut myself some slack and give all parts of my creative self the encouragement to explore, experience, and provide the perfect solution.