|Dad & me 10 years before pump lesson.|
The last responsibility at the end of each pumping session was to fill a metal bucket with fresh water and set it on the nearby picnic table.
One hot day, it was my turn on the pump. There sat the bucket of clean, fresh water, and I had just finished a long hike deep into the woods. I was mighty thirsty. That water hit the spot. I drank from the bucket, letting excess water spill past my cheeks to cool my chest. Most of it ended up on the ground. I didn't care. Figured I'd just refill the bucket when I was done.
I began working the pump handle, but nothing came out. In fact, the handle moved with unusual ease.
"Daddy!" I shouted for help. "Daddy, the pump's broken."
My father set down his axe and came to my aid. He lifted the handle a couple times.
"No problem, son. Hand me the bucket of water."
"Umm . . . there isn't any bucket of water."
"Sure there is. It's on the bench over there."
I soon got a heated lecture on why that bucket of water was so important. He explained how manual pumps worked, saying that we had to "prime" them by pouring water into the valve body. Then, he told me, the pump could build a suction and lift water up from the pool ground water. To complete my lesson, he handed me two buckets, each with a single wire handle, and sent me down to the local lake to fetch priming water. I asked why two buckets. He explained that one was needed to prime the well, and the other was needed to make sure I never screwed up like that again. It worked. The wire handles cut painfully into the meat of my palms during the one mile walk back from the lake. I could only walk a hundred yards at a time before having to massage my hands.
What does this have to do with writing?
Writing is no different than the old style, manual pump design. Sometimes our literary "pump" loses its "prime" and needs a little help to regain the ability to pull from our vast pool of creativity. I took the lesson dad taught me as a child and applied it to my writing. I always leave a surplus bucket of ideas at the end of each writing session to help prime my writing well after I have been away for a while.
Here is an example of that concept. Let's say I wrote the paragraph (below) before going to bed. I would add "priming" notes (in parentheses) for when I return to the story:
The children played quietly in the car while Megan and I argued about our child custody agreement. Neither of us noticed when the car slipped into gear and began rolling toward the lake. I heard the splash and saw Megan's car drifting into deeper water as it nosed down and began to sink.
(Notes: How do I save the kids? Do I experience the horror of seeing their frightened faces in the rapidly diminishing pocket of air by the back window? What about reviving them if they have drowned? Do they experience brain damage from anoxia? Does Megan feel responsible for not setting the parking brake or leaving the car running? Can I . . . or will I . . . use her negligence against her in the custody battle?)
As you can see from the "priming" notes, I should be able to jump right back into the emotional grist of the story, quickly refreshing the tap into my pool of creativity. This kind of primer notation can diminish "writer's block" and produce increased author efficiency.
Thanks for the lesson, dad. I hated carrying those heavy buckets from the lake, but that simple punishment served me well, as applied the concept many times in life. Miss you, Pop.
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