Saturday, September 7, 2013

Floor scrubbing results in novel epiphany

I had a novel epiphany tonight -- one that sent me on a flurry of note-taking and outlining and drawn-out explanations to my patient, but perhaps slightly bewildered husband. 

It all started with this Tweet my friend sent me this morning:

Which lead me to this post which lead me to this post about how an almost homeless J.K. Rowling took a single idea she had while riding on a train and she began to write.

"Didn’t wait. Didn’t say she would do it later. Didn’t say she would do it when she had the time."

Thanks @bcleve19* for offering a much-needed kick in the pants. 

Of course, a kick in the pants is only good if said pants are made of common pants material -- like cotton or denim or some sort of synthetic blend. If, say, those pants are made of iron, or better yet iron covered in foot-maiming spikes, well then that kick will have no effect on the pants wearer (and it would definitely be detrimental to the kicker). 

Apparently, I was wearing my iron** pants today, because I read that post and I thought to myself, "Self, you should probably heed the ways of J.K. Rowling. She seems to know what she's doing." 

And then I got home and with a work-free evening in front of me, and self said, "You know what? Sure, I could write and build some momentum toward completing my novel, which would result in a lot of pride and happiness and sense of achievement for realizing a lifelong dream  ... or ... I could scrub the kitchen floor." 

Naturally I decided to scrub the kitchen floor.

I've sunk to some Marianis-Trench-sized procrastination depths when I choose to scrub the kitchen floor over writing.

But now I really feel like there was a reason I needed to scrub the floor -- and it wasn't just the sticky,furry expanse of funk that was establishing its own ecosystem in the grout. 

While I scrubbed, I listened to an episode of RadioLab about a couple whose baby was born prematurely and the harrowing journey that followed. At about the midway point of my floor scrubbing, I had this thought about a journey one my character could take -- and how that journey could solve one of my major frustrations with writing the novel, which is that I don't think I have a strong enough (OK, or any) central conflict to drive the narrative. But I was really bemoaning the plot point -- like I didn't want to have to take my character through this event and would it be too much art imitating life and cause potential rifts and all the things you worry about when you're writing fiction that's mostly fiction but also secretly nonfiction at times. Apologies for all the vagaries. 

Anyway in the midst of my mental hand-wringing, the dad of the premature baby started talking about how he'd read to his daughter to help bond with her and calm her down. What did he read to her? 

"Harry Potter"

I know I'm creating coincidences and connections where maybe none are to be found, but the moment I heard him say "Harry Potter" I felt like I was being given some sort of blessing from the writing gods/J.K. Rowling/my own neuroses to pursue this plot driver that could very well help solve my writing woes. It was as close to an "aha" moment as I've had on this word-venture and I thought I needed to share it. 

Sometimes magic happens. Even if it takes a lot of scrubbing. 

*If you're looking for someone to follow who consistently posts amusing and/or thoughtful Web ephemera, follow him!

**To be clear, that's iron, not ironed. Because who has time to be wrinkle-free when there's procrastinating to be done?


  1. Every time I read what you write, Sue, I want to write.

    That's good.

  2. Wow. Thanks for your comment Joan. That really made my day. Go forth and write!