Unorthodox Writing Tips 8: Prime the Pump

Now that winter is nearly upon us, and for many snow is one the ground and piling up, I can’t help but think back to when I was a kid growing up in Minnesota. Talk about cold. The winters could be devastating.

One thing I remember was living on well water. If the pump got too cold it would freeze up. So we kept a heater in the well house to make sure that didn’t happen. Each day we’d go out and check on it to make sure that the heater was still running and there wasn’t too much snow on our around the well house.

During the summer we also had to keep on eye on the pump, but for different reasons. Sure if your pump froze up it took a long time to unfreeze it to get it running again, but during the summer we would have a different problem. The pump would lose its prime.

What does that mean? It means there wasn’t any water in the pump. Somehow air had gotten into the lines and the water drained out and no more water would flow. The prime is what kept the water flowing and flowing in the correct direction. If there wasn’t any water in the pump, we’d have to go over to the neighbor’s house to fetch a bucket.

Priming a pump isn’t an easy task. It involves starting and stopping the pump at certain intervals, pouring in water at the correct time, and bleeding any air from the system. Air is your enemy when it comes to a pump and a leak will cause the water to drain out. Obviously doing this in the dead of winter in the Middle of Minnesota was the worst, but it had to be done from time to time. It was all part of owning a pump.

Think of your brain as a well of words. Those words are just crying to come out. Sometimes the words just flow freely and everything is running smoothly. Other times it might back up and you struggle to get the words on the page. Still other times you feel spent and dried up.

Prime your pump. There are a lot of words out there. If you’re at a stuck point or just can’t get anything going, try something a little different. Here are some things I’ve done to get restarted.

Re-write a paragraph. Pick anything you’ve written before or pick something from your favorite author. Just retype that exact same paragraph word for word. Don’t try to change anything, but as you’re typing, think about what you can do differently. Once you’ve retyped that paragraph, type it again with the changes you had in mind and keep thinking as you type it out, what you’d make different again. Repeat this process until you feel ready to get back onto your WIP.

Free Write. Just type whatever comes to your mind. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar. Just get the words out as quickly as you can. Don’t worry about where your mind takes you, just let it roam and type out everything you can. Keep going until you fill a page and you’re ready to type more. Stop before you run into a wall, but once you’re moving along smoothly, hop back into your WIP and start typing.

Describe the next scene. This may sound weird, but take a moment or two and just describe what you think will be happening in the next scene you’re looking to write. If you’re doing a longer work or a short, it doesn’t matter. Type up a paragraph where the scene is going to go. I’ve done this before and there have been times where I’ll have that ‘Ah-ha!’ moment and I’m off and running even before I finish that paragraph. Some scenes can be dull, you need to find what about that scene excites you and once you’ve identified that part, you’re ready to write.

Do a blog post. Gee, guess which method I’m using right now? I’m looking at my WIP and I’m thinking over the scene, but not letting the words come out. I’m just sitting and staring. That’s when I thought about growing up in Minnesota and the trouble we used to have with our pump from time to time. It seemed as though it would make a great Unorthodox Writing Tips post, so I wrote it up.

Sure there are other methods you can try. It may be just finding the method that’s right for you. It should be something that takes a large amount of time. This blog post, for example, took me twenty minutes to write. Once I got into the flow of it, the words just started coming. I plan on taking that momentum and applying it to my WIP before I lose it and need to prime the pump again. I’d better get at it.

Until next time!


Posted on December 10, 2011, in Unorthodox Writing Tips and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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