Okay, so I’ve been puttering around this morning—emptying the dishwasher, making beds, tossing out garbage, putting away laundry—the usual things a woman writer sans a staff of ten or twenty must deal with.
I hate ants. I hate roaches. I hate mice. In my house, I mean. Anyplace else, they’re okay. They are God’s creatures, and must serve a purpose other than to invade an unkempt house and breed. So, yes, I put off writing until my house is clean. However, once I sit in my writing chair, I need something to get the juices flowing, or I could fall asleep over the keyboard. That’s when I turn to my thumbtacks.
Can you remember the innocent pranks of yesteryear? Think back to cartoons where Joe puts a tack on Jim’s chair and watches the result, which is…? Right! Jim sits on the tack and leaps into action. My thumbtacks are prompts that jolt my mind into gear.
Prompts can come from your senses. At this moment, through the screen door, I hear a dog with a sad, whining bark somewhere down the block. Is he lost? Has his owner left him for the day, or perhaps fallen while walking him? Pardon me while I go check. I’m serious. … I’m back. It’s okay. A bunch of cars are parked at his house, and apparently he’s not getting enough attention. What I heard and saw can start a story. A lot of sensory perception went into the writing of Deja Vu Dream and Beyond Deja Vu.
I’m primarily a visual learner, with a chunk of tactile and a mere whisp of auditory processing. Ask my husband. He tries to teach me technology, which usually ends with me yelling, “Wait, wait, wait. I’ve got to write that down in terms I can relate to.” Or, “Wait, wait, wait! I’ve got to draw a picture of that.” And finally, “Wait, wait, wait. Let me do it myself.” It’s extremely stressful. On him. So, visual prompts area great thumbtack for the brain.
Test your other senses for story starters. I bought a pomegranate recently. The juice, tasting of cranberry, winged me back to childhood, to the corner store beside the barber shop where I first bought an Indian Apple, a pomegranate, for a nickel. I remember the chubby-cheeked grocer, complete with bib apron, chuckling as he taught me how to tackle the odd fruit. I was to peel the rind, chew gently on the seeds to release and swallow the juice, followed by expelling the seeds in machine-gun fashion. That was probably the most fun, because the procedure was a ridiculous way to get a drink of juice.
An odor can act as a prompt. Skunk in the back yard? Remember when you were a kid and had to wash your dog in tomato juice? Or were you camping and skunk spray sent a bear charging into your campsite? The touch of a straw basket can revive memories of a vacation in Jamaica; digging your hands in soil while potting a plant can send you back to the gardens of your childhood and the taste of a ripe tomato plucked from the vine. Your senses are great thumbtacks. So, do it! Go to it! Go sit on a tack!
(I’ve wanted to say that since I was eight years old!)