A number of writer friends have been stuck, as I have been until recently, in the winter doldrums. The upside: It’s not even winter yet…we are in the avant garde! The downside:  We have been stuck in the winter doldrums.

This slow-clearing inner fog has given rise to thoughts of how to get in the game; to get our heads out of our…well, shall we say, miseries…and onto the page. Yesterday’s post about outlining from memory was evidence of the trains of thought I’ve been riding. And this is another.

When we are present in the work, we are exactly that: Present. In the work. We are flying the plane (or, more accurately, it is flying us.) We are doing it. We are not thinking about doing it. We are in the middle of it. We look up, down beside, before, behind ourselves, and the work is everywhere. Yes?

When we are not in the work and are trying our damnedest to get there, we are hovering around it, distracted on all sides by the shoulda/woulda/coulda in ourselves. We have to fight our way to the story through a world of distractions just to get a word in edgewise.

So, to the doldrummed among us, I offer this…one of my surest ways in; the key to that strange wonderland inside:

Don’t work from the outside. Find your place inside the story. The look on a character’s face. A combination of words. An emotion. The light in the fictional room. A touch, a shape, a gesture. Focus on that thing and hold on for dear life. And you might just find that the story begins to bloom around you…the cherished, brilliant moment in which you are more there than here.

All it takes is finding one thing inside—and not necessarily even a big thing. It doesn’t need to be an earthshaking moment in the story. It doesn’t even have to be in the precise section you’re working on.

And does it work? Damned right it does. I got the emotional logic of the entire end of the book-in-progress from the look on the main character’s face, two chapters earlier. One look that I latched onto at the right moment.

Will it work every time the doldrums come to visit? Maybe not. But then, it doesn’t have to—does it? Take care of today, and tomorrow will take care of itself.