The Writer's Guide to Happiness
Baby Steps to Writing a Book

Priming the Writing Pump

Priming the pump--an old cliche, right? Yet sometimes cliches have things to teach us. I've been thinking about priming the writing pump lately because I've had a successful experience of it.

Pump_station_rusted_893111_hMy idea of priming the pump is doing a bit of pre-work to get a flow going.  But I decided to look up the exact meaning.  Here it is:

Encourage the growth or action of something, as in Marjorie tried to prime the pump by offering some new issues for discussion. In the late 1800s this expression originally was used for pouring liquid into a pump to expel the air and make it work. In the 1930s it was applied to government efforts to stimulate the economy and thereafter was applied to other undertakings.

(Definition from, a cool site I just discovered.)

And here's how it works for writing.  You're stuck.  You're blocked.  You don't know where to go next.  Your first inclination is to stare off into space, wondering how you'll ever write again.  But then, being the wise writer that you are, you decide to do things a bit differently. So you make some notes about the scene you're working on.  Or you write something else.  You do some research.  You prime the pump.

I had an enlightening example of this in my own writing life last week.  Since finishing the Emma Jean edits and my trip to Nashville, I've been trying to get back to working on the new novel, trying being the operative word.  Progress was minimal because I was stuck on a scene, as in I didn't know where to go with it next.

I made some notes on it.  Jotted down what few ideas I had.  Nothing loosened the grip of my block on this scene. Finally--I'm a bit slow sometimes--I gave myself permission to write out of chronology.  (I did this earlier in the writing of this book but went back to my old stuffy ways.)  I was actually excited about writing a scene coming up in a few more chapters. 

And a funny thing happened as soon as I began writing that scene.  Ideas and images about the scene I'd been stuck on flooded in.  So back I went, roaring through the original scene.  Plus I had good stuff going for the new scene as well.

That, my friends is the power of priming the pump.  So this is my current motto:

Writing something, anything, is better than writing nothing. 

And now excuse me, I have a novel to get back to writing.  (Actually, I have an editing job to finish.  And a newsletter to write.  And a manuscript to read.  But I'm going to find time in there somewhere to work on my novel because I'm excited about it.)

What about you?  How do you prime the pump? Have you had any similar experiences?

Speaking of newsletters, and we were, a paragraph ago, you might want to sign up for mine.  You also get a free copy of my Ebook, Jump Start Your Book With a Vision Board.  The form is to the right of this column.  And thank you.



The very cool photo is from iboy_daniel.