At the risk of showing off my underwear, here’s the first two hundred words of my next book.
It was time to die.
She hadn’t had an idea in the longest while, and so it was time to die.
Plus, the clock had stopped.
It used to tick, she knew that. And she knew it because she had made it. She had made a lot of things in her lifetime, too many to count. She even knew, somewhere in the back of her decaying mind, that she had invented something big once. Something so huge that it had taken its toll, and reduced her to the wisp of a memory of what she had once been.
For now, it was hard enough to recall the last thing she had made, let alone the major thing.
Her wrinkled hand pressed against the cool window pane, as yellow with age as her skin, and her failing eyes squinted to see beyond the dirt. The beach outside used to be purple, not this vague grey mauve weak soup colour. The giant planet on the horizon once sparkled as it reflected the hollow sun back at her tiny lost moon.
They had forgotten it was here. They had forgotten she was here. And she had forgotten that they had forgotten. How she knew she had forgotten this, she had forgotten.
If I go a day without writing, I feel bad. I’m grumpy, non-communicative, and somewhat lethargic. The way some writers talk, you’d be forgiven for thinking that writing is the bane of their lives, and it probably is. It’s like exercise. The event itself might be a struggle, but the sense of having done it afterwards is lovely.
But Harvard studies have shown it has more benefits than you might expect.
In one early study, Dr. Pennebaker asked 46 healthy college students to write about either personally traumatic life events or trivial topics for 15 minutes on four consecutive days. For six months following the experiment, students who wrote about traumatic events visited the campus health center less often, and used a pain reliever less frequently, than those who wrote about inconsequential matters.
And other studies have shown that expressive writing can help reduce stress.
The theory is that writing things down helps you organise your thoughts, and assign meaning to your life experiences.It also help to regulate emotions, and can help you break negative mental cycles.
I know that on more than one occasion, sitting down and writing down the thoughts in my head about something has certainly helped me move on, and certainly feel better.
Sometimes your main character has to do something trivial in order to move the plot along. Maybe it’s pick up some papers from the office, or retrieve a vital clue from the trash.
If it seems undramatic, then the temptation is to get it over and done with as quickly as possible, like tearing off a plaster. But ask yourself this: if this could happen off-camera, does it need to happen on camera?