A Visit to the Land of What-If

Yesterday, I stopped by the land of What-If. To get there, I took a left turn away from outcome, followed an unpaved thought, and finally arrived at a new idea.

After a month of trying to edit my way out of a plot logjam in the new book, I closed every existing chapter and opened a fresh empty ‘page’ on the screen. At the top, I wrote what if…

imagination working overtime

Creativity, not end result

The only thing that lives in What-If is infinite possibility, and there’s a guard at the gate to check for (and remove) any pre-conceived notions I might be trying to smuggle inside. I don’t think about word count, or whether I’ve accurately captured the way a character picks up a beer, or how that final love scene will be received by critics and friends and most of all my mother. Because only by stepping away from all that could I find a real solution.

Just say no to distractingly shiny details

It was hard to take off my editor’s Dr. Seuss hat, and even harder not to put my writer’s hard hat back on again. In fact there are no hats allowed inside the carefully patrolled borders of What-If, because hats might keep my imagination from soaring free. After all, even in an imaginary place it is much, much easier to get caught up in the shiny details of words, grammar, and typos than it is to focus on the big picture.

Daydreaming with my fingers on the keyboard

Once I’d abandoned all my previous ideas, I started typing out whatever snippet of thought that popped into my head. Eventually those snippets turned into a new plotline that solved the old stumbling block—and, almost instantly, the new “facts” seemed like the only logical path.

I could only stay a little while before I had to head back to the real world, but that’s okay. I know from previous visits that once I’ve seen the big picture, the details will fall into place more easily if I’m actively focused on something else. So the new idea is going to percolate for a day or so…

And then I’ll put my writer’s hat on again and work on showing this idea through words and deeds that make sense to my characters. I can hardly wait to see what comes out of finally “understanding” this new section of the story.

I also can hardly wait to share this one with you all. But after this unexpected visit to the Land of What-If, I promise: it will be worth all of my hard work and all of your patience.

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