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Confessions of a Standup Writer

September 14, 2012

I can’t sit still when I write. That is, I write a few paragraphs or maybe a page, and then I have to stand up to think. Then I go sit down and write. I write for a while. You already figured out what I do next.

It’s a process I never set out to follow consciously. It’s a reflex, perhaps. I get stuck, get up to look out the window, figure out what happens next in whatever I’m writing, sit down and resume writing. This happens all day long, or for however many hours I spend writing. Sometimes it helps to take the garbage out or rearrange some books. (I wrote that sentence after returning from the kitchen to turn off the eggs I was boiling).

Sometimes I’ll pace my office and talk aloud: “Let’s see. If Ben goes to the restaurant and runs into Joey, should he tell Joey about meeting Lucy on her porch? No, no. too mundane. All right, what if Joey just happens to come across them . . . no, that’s coincidence. Weak as can be. How about this: What if Joey and Ben both go to Lucy’s house . . . . . ”

It helps, and I don’t know why. Distractions also help. My friend Christina calls to say hello. I tell her I’m working on that scene I mentioned the other night. She’s says, OK, I’ll call later. Didn’t mean to bother you. No, no bother at all, I say. How’s your day going? What did you have for lunch?

(Fire truck just went by. Had to take a look out my window).

There’s probably a medical reason why standing up and pacing helps solve a problem in plot or characterization; perhaps it gets the blood flowing and that helps the creative process.

In my case, I assume my brain is located at the opposite end of where it should be, and I have to stand up to relieve the pressure on it so it can function properly.

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