Friday, February 12, 2010

Ironing out plot wrinkles

I have a friend who loves to iron. She claims nothing is quite so satisfying as turning a wrinkly morass of crumpled fabric into a vast plain of utter smoothness.

Yeah, right. I don't get it either.

When the theater god and I were first dating--on our second date, I believe it was--I mentioned casually that I do not iron. (I believed in full disclosure early on. No point in investing my valuable dating time in someone who would ultimately expect domesticity in a partner.) I knew he was the guy for me when he responded, "That's okay. All my clothes are wad-n-wear."

It's not that I never use an iron. I do. One time, right after we moved into our current home, I had to drag the iron up from the depths of the basement to heat up the butt-ugly tiles in our kitchen enough to scrape them off the sub-floor. I recall my son, then three years old, asking, "What's that, Mommy?" *cough*

[Small digression: those tiles were seriously hideous. The dog once threw up on them, and I didn't realize it until I stepped in it. Barefoot. I am not kidding about that. Sure, I am not above exaggerating for comic effect, but I didn't have to this time. Ditto for what my son said above. Sadly, that is true too.]

There have even been times when I've used the instrument of mental torture for its actual purpose. Occasionally one or the other of us (okay, me) has been dumb enough to buy an article of clothing without making note of the 100% cotton label. And once you're past a certain age, the just-slept-in-sexy college coed look morphs into the homeless bag lady look mighty fast. So, yeah. I've had to edit my "I will never iron" pledge to "I will never iron cheerfully."

An odd thing happened not long ago, though, something that has me a trifle concerned. I was horribly blocked with my current WIP. I'd written myself into a hell of a corner, and my usual method of writing myself a wacky window for my character to crawl out of was not coming through for me. I tried the old stand-by deblockers--movies, TV, even *gasp* housework (but not cooking; I know my limits)--to no avail. So, completely desperate, I got out the iron and attacked a small pile of cotton shirts (never trust a "good deal" at Costco).

Halfway through the second shirtsleeve, a tiny trickle of an idea made itself known in the part of my brain reserved for writing. I ignored it at first, not wanting to contaminate it with bad ironing vibes. But it was insistent. The more I slammed the sputtering, hissing iron to cotton and mowed down those nasty wrinkles, the bigger the trickle grew, until a whole scene flooded into my consciousness. A scene I liked.

When I finally crawled back out of my head, the mound of shirts was pristine, hanging neatly from plastic hangers on the rail by the dryer. And I had not the foggiest memory of how they got there.

Since the Great Ironing Blackout Incident, I haven't again been pushed to such desperate measures to break through my writer's block. Thank God. But I do have a pair of linen walking shorts stuffed in the back of a drawer, just in case.

5 comments:

Tawna Fenske said...

Love it! I was going to ask you to come over and iron the basket of laundry stuffed in the back of my closet, but on second thought, I might need it someday. These are the sort of writing tips we just can't get anywhere else!

Tawna

Linda G. said...

Whew! I mean, I like you, Tawna, but ironing? You're on your own!

Indigo said...

I can iron. Doesn't mean I enjoy it or you'll find me with an iron in hand anytime soon. For some reason water does it for me. Never fails when I'm stuck, my hands fully submerged in dishwater the creative flow starts to unspool. Now if I could just find a waterproof solution to writing with wet hands, I would be just fine. Road trips kick start me too. (Hugs)Indigo

evbishop said...

I've used my iron. For embossing stamps. Heh. Now it leaves black smootches when my husband (reg force guy, addicted to the weird flattening object) uses it--but don't worry. His bestfriend bought him a really spiffy new one for Christmas.;)

This was a great post, Linda--and a very good reminder about the power of physical, non-brain-taxing work to free up writing ideas.

Linda G. said...

Indigo -- I'm with you on the warm, sudsy water. I don't mind washing dishes, for some reason. I think I just like playing with the bubbles. ;) Maybe a grease pencil on a waterproof board would work for getting those ideas down before you forget them.

Ev -- lol! Sounds like a good use for an iron to me. And, yes, it is the physical, non-brain-taxing tasks that work best for creative mental pursuits. And showers. They work for me too.