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Rats, leprechauns, and finding the love...

The other night I attended my kid’s elementary school Science Fair. First of all, if you ever need inspiration or to reinvigorate your hope in the future: go to a Science Fair. Seriously. It was amazing. And the amount of story ideas…um, endless.

My own kid’s project was a pretty cool one: it involved teaching his pet rats to run a maze using different types of food rewards. As you can imagine, the food was a positive motivator and it increased the speed of their learning. However, what I found most interesting was what happened the very first time the rats were put in the maze…because this was the time when they had no idea that there was food at the end. Or that there even was an end.

Out of his four rats, three were curious enough about their environment to just explore and explore until they happened to run into a piece of food. (The fourth one wouldn’t move and just sat in the maze and peed, until we took her out for warm cuddles and treats.)

But all this got me thinking about the reasons we write and what makes us curious enough about our story ideas to actually write them down. I know there are terms for that highly charged and exciting time when two people first start dating. And whether you refer to it as the honeymoon period or NRE (New Relationship Energy), it’s a time full of curiosity, of wanting to get to know the other person, above all other priorities. And for me, it feels like there’s a honeymoon period or New Project Energy (NPE) that comes with an idea and the urge to write it. It’s all I want to do, all I want to think about—it’s my top priority.

So what I’ve been struggling with lately, is how to get back into a WIP after you’ve had to set it aside for a while. How to get the NPE spark back?

For me, trying to recapture that spark feels a bit like trying to catch a leprechaun. Or trying to get out of a maze I already know I’m stuck in. It’s the corralling of an abstraction, and the only answer I’ve found so far is just to sit down and write and write and write until the love for the story comes back. I also reread and highlight my favorite parts, which helps, but it’s still not as fun.

So I’d love to hear from you. How do you get your groove back for a writing project you haven’t worked on in some time? How do you catch your leprechaun?

Have a very happy St. Patrick's Day!
Stephanie Kuehn

Stephanie is the William C. Morris award-winning author of Charm & Strange, Complicit, Delicate Monsters, and The Smaller Evil.

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  1. I found solving the issues that stopped me writing in the first place make me fall in love with the story again. And you're right - you do have to just write, write, write until the love comes back.

  2. The rat maze looks amazing! Your son did an excellent job! XD And I don't get my groove back-I just write and write, until that rush hits, and the next thing I know, I'm writing faster than before :P

  3. Thanks, guys. It seems like writing and more writing is the answer! Now if only food rewards could be planted along the way... :) And thanks, Kayla, I was surprised at how well the maze turned out!

  4. :D Yeah, I recommend being the rat that's curious enough to poke around the maze until it finds a bit of cheese (cheese being that moment where things start to work again). Being the rat that just sits there and pees until someone picks it up and gives it cuddles is a recipe for never getting back into that project.
    (That doesn't mean that most writers haven't just looked at the horrible maze and wanted to curl up into a ball and pee in misery at one point or other.)
    Still dying of laughter about this post. :D


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