Creating Space for the Lightbulb Moments
Yes, I believe it exists. Ideas come, and they come from places we don’t understand and can’t identify. They show up, changing a plot or deepening a character, and they do that at a time when, five minutes before, the well was dry. We can stare and stare and see nothing and then, suddenly, a thought shows up, followed by another thought and another…and we’re writing again.
I do believe inspiration exists. I also believe there are things we can do to help it along.
- Write as often as possible. I really think 30 minutes every day is more valuable than three hours once a week, and not just because it adds up to a half-hour more. How many times have you not looked at your story for week or so, then set up a block of time to spend with it, only to find that your work is slow and clunky and moving in circles? Believe me, I know that every day is often impossible, but stay in touch with your manuscript as often as possible.
- Think about your story. Even if you’re not writing, keep the proverbial notebook handy, or (like me) email yourself messages about new possibilities. Don’t get in a car wreck, but–when you can–get your brain back to your book.
- Talk to people about your book. No, not the people who come up to you and say, “So when I am I going to be able to buy a copy?” But to your critique partners, to a family member who “gets it” and who actually listens–maybe even tosses a few ideas back and forth.
- Read. Some of this reading will be for research, some will be for craft, and some will be for pleasure. All of us have our comfort reading, the books that we can read without thinking, without emotional upheaval, and I think they’re actually very important to our lives, our sanity. BUT…stretch yourself, too. Find out what books in your writing genre are winning awards, which are creating buzz, and–yeah–which are being censored and banned. Reading authors who have clearly pushed themselves helps us remember to push ourselves. That’s inspiration.
Each of these things, in itself, doesn’t necessarily contribute a whole lot to the progress of a story. But all together, they add up to keeping us connected to our stories. The brain is a deep, convoluted maze, and the longer we stay away from something, the deeper it gets buried. Daily to-dos pile up on top, and–when we’re ready to head back into a manuscript–we have to dig through that pile to get anywhere close. And close is all we’ll get.
Dipping into your story, whether it’s opening a file and free-writing about a character or venting a frustrating plot-block to a friend, keeps you in touch. It keeps your writing at the top of your brain, and it makes it a gazillion times easier to step back into and actually move forward.