I have been having a difficult time with the novel lately. I felt like the story was becoming stale, stagnant. Usually when I sit down to write for the novel, the story seems to flow organically. But in the past few weeks, I’ve had to force the story out. I was no longer looking forward to writing when it came to the novel.

I tried setting it aside and writing a story or two. The two stories I wrote came quite easily, a little too easily. I couldn’t move back to the novel, not after the two stories came so quickly. They seemed to write themselves.

I tried going back to the first few chapters (which I think are quite good) and see what I was doing differently. This only frustrated me. These chapters had come quickly as well. What the hell was so different?

I was lucky to receive an acceptance last week (details to follow), thus switching up my routine. I spent the week doing more writing business than writing. I took some time off but not a vacation.

I thought long and hard about my characters and wondered why they were being so boring.

I revisited character charts I had drawn up over a year ago. There was plenty I had forgotten. For a reason unbeknown to me, I experienced a strange influx of memories that had long been lost. They came like a flood.

We all have those memories that are lost until something triggers their return. The way someone coughs reminds me of a high school friend’s mother who would go to her room to smoke pot every fifteen minutes while we sat in the living room. A teenager giving a friend a piggyback ride reminds me of a fight my sister and I once had.

I leave a coffee shop and see two men embrace, and for some reason, I am reminded of a moment from years earlier. My girlfriend and I are sitting outside of the New York Public Library which is closed. We are sitting to the side of the lion statues at one of the tables that have the squares so you can play chess or checkers without bringing a board from home. Two men and a woman are sitting behind us. Revolutionaries in another era. They light up a joint. It is two in the afternoon. About thirty minutes later, we can hear them cutting up lines of cocaine. I remember wondering if they were cool or old and sad. I am still undecided.

Characters have these forgotten moments as well. They only remember these times when something triggers their memory. The problem I was having with my novel was that I had forgotten all of this. I was trying to create my characters’ present, and I had forgotten to consider their past. Revisiting those old character maps reminded me who these people were and what they had gone through.

I sat down to rewrite some of the novel yesterday, and the words had returned to me. It was like old days, my novel and I working together. It turns out that in order to reignite an old flame, I had to remember what had ignited the relationship in the first place.