What do you do when you have a close deadline, your mind is blank and you haven't written your first word? That's the dilemma I had to resolve one night at midnight.
I got a call from my ex-wife after 11 PM that my son would fail a class if he didn't turn in an assignment in the morning and he wasn't doing it.
Assessing the situation, I learned that Monday, my son had been assigned to write a short fantasy story of three to seven pages due Friday. He had worked on it for at least three or four hours, but he could not come up with the opening words.
When we sat at the table, I asked my son, “You don't want to be here, right now, do you?”
The look on his mother's face at me captured not only my attention, but my son's as well. It was obvious to everyone that I had just lit a very short fuse! With his head turned towards me but his eyes locked on his mother's, as if in defiance, he said, “No. I don't!” Tensions rose.
“Then," I replied, "take your mind somewhere you can relax, and relax your body.” (Anger management class taught me to do this when I'm stressed.)
I told him to write whatever he sees. All the tension in the room drained away. My son finally had words on paper.
After prodding him with a few questions, he described a tired and battered man leading a horse into a castle. He put that description aside.
He wrote about four scenes like that, each answered on a separate sheet of paper. I then asked questions about each one to expand on the scenes.
What is happening? Who is there? Where were they before? Where do they go? I asked anything one might think to ask about the scene. My son got the idea and took off with it.
He then arranged his notes and wrote his story.
At 3 AM, he finished his story and I went home. Monday, I received a call from his mother giving me an update. His story was so "unlike him" that the teacher called to see if he cheated. He not only got an A+ on the paper, but the class unanimously voted that his was the best story, which earned him an extra credit A+.
I thank God for the wisdom that night, because his mother is a fantasy/fiction writer and 20+ years later, I'm struggling to write this little article.
I hope this helps writers and authors, and I hope, even more, that it inspires someone to follow the exercise I gave my son, and write your first story. And do it again, and again. Even if it sucks, keep doing it. Soon, you'll be a writer and author.