My fridge, on writing and life

3 years ago I graduated from college (holy cow I’m old) and Andy and I moved in together. Our condo came with all the necessary appliances, including a nice Maytag refrigerator. The unit was pretty standard: ivory white, vertical doors, with the refrigeration side on the right, freezer and ice/water dispenser on the left.

We put a lot into that fridge. Milk, cheese, fruits, veggies, ice cream, pot pie, leftovers, etc. And of course we took quite a bit out again too. Some of the stuff, we forgot about, and over time it grew moldy, became inedible. Every now and then we would purge the fridge of these horrors, then re-stock it with fresh new goodies.

One day, for no apparent reason, the ice/water dispenser decided to stop dispensing. We Googled for help, and even paid $15 to chat live with a serviceman, who instructed us on how to take the dispenser out of the door, fiddle with the wires, etc. Nothing worked. So we shrugged our shoulders and bought a purifying water pitcher to use instead. Life went on.

Fast forward 1 year.

Last week, a small windstorm knocked out power in our neighborhood. When the power was restored a few hours later, we went around to reset all the clocks. As I walked into the kitchen to set the microwave and oven, I noticed two strange little lights on our refrigerator door. The ice/water dispenser had come back to life!

In case you hadn’t figured it out by now, this is not only a true story, it’s a metaphor. As writers, we fill up our manuscript with words and ideas. Sometimes they get old and moldy before we can put them to use. Sometimes they keep for years. And sometimes part of the manuscript just stops working. You can hire someone to try and repair it, or jiggle the wires and hope for the best. Or you can accept that it’s broken and walk away. Find an alternative. Maybe work on a different manuscript altogether. Then one day, when you least expect it, maybe a light will come on, and your original manuscript will start working again.

I started my first novel, The Good Daughters, 6 years ago. I put it aside 2 years ago, when I realized that in spite of the great characters, themes, and prose that it contained, the story wasn’t working. The plot was broken. Then a couple weeks ago, a light came on in my head. Without consciously trying to, I had figured out the perfect plot to dispense my story. The Good Daughters works again.

My guess is that this metaphor applies to a lot more in life than just writing. To be clear, it’s not about “magic” solutions to your problems, or waiting for things to happen for you. It’s about not trying to force something to work before it’s ready. Because maybe it’s really you that isn’t ready. Maybe your brain is trying to figure something out but you’re getting in the way. Or maybe your mind just needs a little time and a little space, a little spark or a little storm, to jolt it back on the right track.

Or maybe I’m just overextending the metaphor because I’m so shocked by my dispenser’s miraculous revival…

Either way, would you like some ice? I can get it for you from my fridge.

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30 Comments

  1. I love this post. It is weird how we need to put things out of our minds a bit for them to just suddenly click

  2. LOL

    Nicely done. Great metaphor and totally true.

    I hope to see The Good Daughters on shelves sometime soon.

  3. I will not look at my fridge the same way again. hehe great post! You’re very right. Sometimes we’re just not ready to tackle something but maybe we will be someday.

  4. Awww, great post! It is so true. While we writers have to be disciplined, sometimes a piece just doesn’t work…or it’s not ready yet. I’m working on being okay with this cycle. Post like yours are good reminders!

  5. I think you know I had a similar experience writing On the Chase. It was a little different in that (I think) you completed a draft of The Good Daughters, and I stopped OTC when I got to my plot issues. All the other things I’ve written have been one continuous effort. OTC has been my only experience with stopping for a significant amount of time and re-starting, but I think it all worked out in the end. I hope you ended up being happy with the Good Daughters once you’ve finished it – again!

  6. YAY for your ice makers revival! And the metaphor was fantastic. Good luck on your new/old MS. I hope it works for you this time!!

    I just wanted to let you know that I changed blog domains, so my new domain name is: http://www.kim-franklin.com

    Have a great day!!

  7. Alex

    I’m really glad. :-) I hope this means I can look forward to reading more of it.

    (Also, can we work something out where your metaphor replenishes my tired brain, too? Stupid bar exam.)

  8. I LOVE metaphors like this. Brilliant post. Now yes, I’ll take an iced tea :)

  9. Joelle

    Okay so during the next storm I’m going to stand outside and let the storm reset my mind. Not really. Great metaphor about the writing process.

  10. You know I’m excited!!

  11. Yay yay!!! Since we “met” because of The Good Daughter then you know I love what I’ve read of it and I really want to be able to go down to my local bookshop and buy it. So hurry up with that, OK?!?!

  12. Erica-
    Very weird. Humans are weird. Life is weird. :P

    Todd-
    LOL me too.

    Sonja-
    It *definitely* worked out. ;)

    Kimberly-
    Cool beans. I’ll update my links page soon!

    Alex-
    Haha you can. Just not *soon* soon. More like… 1-2 yrs soon. ;P

    Emily Jane-
    Coming right up!

    Joelle-
    Yeeeeahh, that’s not quite what I was recommending either…

    Amanda-
    Aww. I’ll try!

  13. you’re such a good writer. LOVE this post. you’re way too cool for me to hang out with now. ;)

  14. You are so write! (I mean right…cheesy, I know)

    I set aside a story once for about a year, before going back to it and “Revamping it.” It turned out a completely different story with different characters, different plot, different voice, and about three times as long.

    Who said a little waiting ever hurt anyone?

    And I loved how you turned your fridge into a metaphor. Isn’t it a writer thing?

  15. Eleven

    I get in my own way all the time. Mostly with writing, but other parts of my life suffer from the kind of brain pipe-clogging even Draino won’t clear. Often, time and a smattering of life experiences inspire the much-needed fix. Other times, it just dies a nice peaceful death out of site. Both my attic and my hard drive are full of the corpses of projects and ideas I couldn’t make work.

  16. Les

    Yes, I would love some ice :p

  17. Riley

    AWESOME POST

  18. Sarah-
    LOL whatever! I wrote about my FRIDGE. That’s only cool in the literal sense. :P

    J.P.-
    No worries, haha, I make that pun sometimes too.

    Eleven-
    Mental Draino. Now *there’s* an idea! If we could sell that stuff…

    Les-
    You would. :P

    Riley-
    Who taught you how to type?! (Also, are you being sarcastic? I can’t tell…)

  19. Ah, I so relate to this topic! I just wrote a post on timing, not pushing, all that. I’m finding the less I push and the more I lean in, the better.

  20. I know what you’re saying. I often need time off from things to make them work again :)

  21. Jon

    Good to hear that you’ve figured out the first novel. I would love to revisit some of my earlier writings, but usually I don’t know how to start–you’ve provided some inspiration.

  22. This is officially my favorite blog post EVER.

    What a perfect, appropriate, inspiring metaphor. Thank you for reminding everyone about the sparks that lie within us – and the fact that sometimes they just can grow into vibrant flames.

    Good luck with going back to work on your first novel!! :)

  23. Shari-
    :D That is officially my favorite blog comment EVER!

  24. Terrific. Leave it to a writer to make a great connection like that. :)

  25. Indispensable advice. I cannot believe I made it through college writing everything at the last minute. I’ve been letting my work sit and “mature.”

    Nothing short of magic happens. Great post and lovely site by the way!

  26. I love this. It’s so true that sometimes your mind just isn’t in the right place for what you’re trying to do, or you’re trying to force something that just won’t happen or feel right. But that doesn’t mean it’ll never happen. Patience is also important in creativity, even if it sucks :)

    Excellent metaphor, too. I don’t know what I’d do if my ice maker stopped working. Probably cry (first world problems).

  27. Also, I’m super excited to hear more about this novel! Good luck!

  28. Jan-
    Thanks!

    Carrie-
    “I cannot believe I made it through college writing everything at the last minute.” HAHA I feel the exact same way! I was just wondering this morning if my school work would have been better if I’d given it more time… but eh, we were young, still learning, and probably busy doing more fun things. ;)

    Thanks so much!

    Mandy-
    “Patience is also important in creativity, even if it sucks :)” Truer words were never spoken.

  29. If I were in the Midwest, I would like some ice, but since I’m in cold/foggy California, I’ll take some hot chocolate instead, please! Great post and very timely for me because I’ve recently made the difficult decision (sniff sniff) to set my WIP aside for a while while I work on something else. The story arc needs tightening, and I just can’t see it clearly right now. It pains me, though, not to finish it. You, on the other hand, have MANY years ahead of you to write all your novels! I love the title “The Good Daughters” by the way. Good luck with the revision!

  30. Aw, I know what a hard decision that can be. I know how it felt for me. But in time (and not so much time as I thought it would take, either) I came to see it was the right thing to do. I wrote more, I wrote better. And now I know I can go back to TGD and make it really work, really shine. I’m sure the same will be true for you, and Paris on Less Than $10k a Day.

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