Rock bottom became the solid foundation upon which I rebuilt my life ” – J.K.Rowling

The bottom leaves few options.

Whether you’re starting a novel or stuck somewhere in between, consider yourself at the bottom. Daunting I know. And counter intuitive. Yet the bottom leaves only one direction. Up.

Underground tunnels often lead nowhere. Writing seems that way sometimes. I’ve found myself huddled over my laptop, moving in circles. I drift down a tunnel only to learn I’ve headed nowhere new.

The bottom line (see what I did there?) is you can’t sink deeper. Believe that. Then step up. Here’s how.


Creepy things dwell in darkness. For a writer this means negative thoughts, self-loathing. Worry mushrooms. Light awakens our muse. Find it. Begin by bathing in all five senses. Surround your writing space with sight, sound, taste, touch and smell.

In the article, It’s Just Common Sense: Accessing All 5 Senses To Enrich Research Insights, disrupters (the five senses) can access the less-conscious brain. They impact how we really experience and think about things. It also helps broaden the tools and the language that people can use to express their feelings and reactions.

My muses:

  • Lamp showers light on an inspirational picture: a watercolor of a blues bar, musicians playing.
  • Wine, if I’m in the mood. Or a hot tea. Write, sip. Repeat.
  • Pandora in the background. Maybe Michael Bublé crooning.
  • A leather-bound notebook. Book ideas. Smells of parchment.
  • A smooth stone, polished and weighty. I palm it, consider my next line. Like a pen in hand, my rock helps me think.


Where do you want to go next? Maybe you can’t see it yet. Views from above provide insight.  Problems, whether plot points, or revealing character arc, for example, require big picture views. The higher you climb, the less troublesome the issue. Think lounging by a pool and spying a bug. View the pool out the second-story window and the bug disappears. Recall the big picture. Review timelines, plot points, character sketches.


Linear thinking is one option. Amy Hempel, who recently published a short story collection, Sing to It, said she didn’t write the sections in Bluets in order.

“It rings true in the way memories come to us and how we experience anything. We don’t go through a given day in a linear fashion. At least I don’t,” Hempel said.

It’s okay to skip ahead. Maybe you’d rather write about the climax. Maybe another character’s speaking to you at night before you drift off. Often a secondary character exposes truth only they can tell you. Write your way. The way the story unfolds to you. Don’t be afraid to change a paragraph or two. Dump a chapter. I just did that and it improved the book.

As I wrote this, I was traveling through New Mexico. In that jag of I40, desert greets the highway. In the distance plateaus rise. Their flat crests rebuff the desert shapes below. Given the chance, I’d sit atop that firm foundation, view the desert floor from above. The clay earth is littered with shrubs, obstacles to seeing the big picture.

Wandering the bottom is futile. Step up and leave the view from the bottom behind.

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