I know I’m stating the obvious here but writing is a very solitary process. You sit alone at your desk. You quietly create characters in your head. Sometimes you hit your stride, whipping out ten pages in two hours. Other times you belabor an idea for a month and still can’t get your footing. Either way, you go at it alone.
“I’m stuck,” I complained to a coworker.
“I’ve got nothing left,” I whined to my sister.
No matter how hard I thought, no matter how much I read, I couldn’t find inspiration for the next story of my collection. Horizontal on my sofa, watching the cast of The Real Housewives of New York bicker, I tried to conjure up a plot. I knew I had come to a really bad place when I seriously considered writing a story about a guy who, while driving home from banging a hooker, accidentally hits a runner on the side of the road and leaves him for dead. All I was missing was an alien.
At the end of my rope, I stepped out of my one-woman writing cave and reached out to friends. I sent one email to Paula because she has read my entire collection so far and another email to Ryane because she’s politely listened to me yap about it. In both, I summarized what I had to date, noting the chapter number, main character and plot. Then I pleaded for suggestions. “What’s missing?” I asked.
Both ladies wrote back within a few hours and both provided incredible feedback. “Write about a slumber party,” Paula excitedly suggested, pointing out that this will fill the gap where my main character leaps in age and develop her in a new way. “Write a story from the birth father’s POV,” Ryane proposed, explaining how cool it would be for the reader to have his perspective. I was suddenly fidgety with excitement.
It’s been a few days since those seeds were planted. Nothing has been written but that’s because I’m too busy thinking things through. Saturday I’ll meet my friend Allison in Princeton for a day of spring shopping. Later that night, I might try to catch American Buffalo at the McCarter. And then Sunday? Sunday I will return to my writing cave. I will ignore incoming calls and refuse to check Facebook. I will disappear to the deep darkness that is the writing life, toting nothing more than my laptop and a nice chilled bottle of Sokol Blosser’s Evolution. But the entire time, I’ll know I have my friends within reach in case I hit another wall.