Cherise Wolas Recommends...

“When I’m lost, first I pretend I’m not. Then I admit it and analyze. Am I coiled into a choking sentence that signals avoidance rather than deep delving? Am I short-circuiting what must be fully discovered, explored, and written? Have I lost the connective sinews, become emotionally distant? That checklist can send up a signpost. If no signpost appears, I read through my thick stack of possibly-to-be-incorporated thoughts, images, ideas, and fragments, hoping to sight the missing path. If there is no sighting, I reduce my focus to the smallest denominator—words I’ve already written—and scour definitions, synonyms, and antonyms. It is an oblique becalming by which I sometimes puzzle things out. If the puzzle isn’t solved, I take a long, hard-thinking walk, and that can create the space I need to slip back into my characters and know where they want to go. If the walk is fruitless, I ramble aloud to my lovely husband, a monologue that might result in a stumble back onto the path. If I’m still marooned, I remind myself of all the times I’ve cleared the bramble before, then binge-watch a show in a foreign language, deliberately thinking of nothing at all. Come morning, I return to my desk, again pretending I’m not lost, and plunge in. Perhaps this personal arsenal serves only to avert overwhelming panic, but on a day when I’m floundering, using these tools, intended to recalibrate my synapses, has allowed me to find my way. Or, at least, it has so far.”
—Cherise Wolas, author of The Resurrection of Joan Ashby (Flatiron Books, 2017)