Staying in the Story State of Mind

Hey everyone,

Happy Wednesday! I have big news to share this week… I had my first Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte yesterday! Woohoo!! Alert the media. Now I know what all the crazy is about!

I’ve resisted trying them for awhile because I’m not a big pumpkin flavor fan. I wasn’t a big pumpkin flavor fan.  But this. Yeah, well people change. 🙂

So why the big change exactly? I was in Barnes and Noble yesterday buying a fabulous middle grade book. (More on that later). Well, I couldn’t wait to dive into the book, and since there’s a Starbucks right inside the store, I thought I’d grab an afternoon coffee and sit in their cute little café and read. The trouble is, I only like coffee I make at home—flavored coffee with flavored creamer.  I’ve had bad luck finding the right mix of cream and sugar in Starbucks flavored coffees. I usually have to add 8 packs of sugar and no I’m not kidding.

But I had never tried a latte. I thought a mix of coffee and milk would be gross. But when I think of all the milk or cream or soy milk or half or half I usually add, I realized maybe Starbucks coffee is not for me. I spend more time trying to fix it up then actually drinking it.

So I gave the pumpkin spice latte a try and it was pure bliss… I’m sure most of you agree with me!! I now feel like I’ve been inducted into a special club!

But even more blissful was the feeling I had as I read the first chapter of the book I bought earlier: The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. I was pulled into the story from the very first page. If you have a chance, check this one out. It’s a little bit Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and a little bit oh I’m not even sure what! But the cast of characters is great, the narrative voice is spectacular, and the intrigue is spot on. It’s like one big puzzle where the kids at this point are just trying to figure out what’s going on.

I reluctantly closed the book after the first chapter, but dove right back in last night. I’m only 67 pages in right now but I’m hooked! I love it so much when I find an amazing book!

The trouble is, as important as it is for writers to read, sometimes I resist starting a new book—when I’m in the middle of drafting a new story. It’s not that I’m worried that I’ll take on the voice of the author or be influenced by their writing, it’s more because when I’m in the writing zone, I need to stay in the writing zone.

Does that make sense?

I’ve found it easier to stay in the world of my WIP and in the heads of my characters if I think of them often throughout the day, and then write more about them the next day. If I don’t, and take a longish break, it takes me too long to get my head in the right place again. Writers block becomes a problem then too. So I try to keep my mind somewhat aware of my story—even if it’s not intentional, almost at all times during the drafting process. And it’s usually easy to do, when I’m excited about the story I’m writing.

Some might call this the writing cave. I call it the Story State of Mind.

But it’s not easy to stay there. Real life gets in the way and pulls our attention elsewhere. I get that. It happens to me all the time. Just last week my mother (who recently learned to text) sent me the following text:

Jackie, are you okay? You don’t sound as chipper as you usually do…love mom

And I had to laugh…and sigh. Because the last time I had talked to her I was in the middle of drafting a first chapter. I was distracted. I was probably anxious to hang up with her. I was annoyed hearing her stories of what my siblings were doing. I love them all but really, my sister having rain damage to her roof was not as exciting as the world I was trying to create. Especially when I had already heard all this the roof saga from my sister earlier in the day! So yeah, I was probably not real chipper. I was thinking about getting back to my characters. I was trying to stay in the Story State of Mind.

So what do you do to stay there? Do you write every day? Do you stop reading books too until your draft is done or until you need a break? Or do you only write once in a while when you’re not in the Story State of Mind? If that’s the case, I urge you to do everything you can to get in it when you write. Even if it means writing every night at 10:00pm or every morning at 5am. Maybe that’s what it will take to keep your mind on your story—to train it to snap into action at those times. Routines are key here because then your mind never turns off the world and characters you’re creating.

So yes, I broke my own rule this week. I’m reading an amazing book while drafting my own. But at the rate I’m going, I’ll finish the book I’m reading by the end of the week. Then I can close it as a happier person and get back into my writing zone—back into my Story State of Mind.

I hope you all have a fabulous week. I’d love to hear your tales of getting in and staying in your story state of mind. Maybe it even includes a pumpkin spiced latte. If it does, I totally get it now. Totally.

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