I feel like I haven’t finished covering the topic of inspiration. I’ve written about it before, but it’s one of those intangibles that continues to fascinate me. There are so many different aspects to it. It’s a bit like the humorous welcome mat I saw one time, with the caption, “Dog is hiding in the bushes. He knows you’re here. Act as if nothing is wrong.”
Some people worry that inspiration is hiding out there, waiting to strike when they least expect it. In my case, it seems more like a deliriously happy, drooling lap dog that just wants to please. (I love dogs.) It’s made it much easier for me to write than most people would dream of. And it’s a bit of a relief to me to have two novels out and the third one almost ready to submit to the publisher…from the day they tag a person as ‘gifted,’ there’s massive expectation to do something amazing. I think writing a scifi series counts.
We’re all different, fortunately. What a boring world it would be if we all thought the same, acted the same, and dressed the same. ‘Send in the clones.’ So inspiration is perceived and received in many different ways. I don’t wake up in the middle of the night with the next chapter waiting in my brain, although some people claim to. I don’t get enough sleep as it is…Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who come on too late in the evening.
I get inspired ideas, which lead to other ideas. I guess you could call that my style. I’m all over the place when I write a book. I assign the first chapter numbers in multiples of five, and place them relative to where I think they’ll go in the story line. As things progress, I get a clearer picture of where additional chapter should go–then numbers in between start to get used up. Sure, it doesn’t always end up as one, two, three, four, five, six in the rough draft, that’s not the idea. Sometimes a chapter will end up with a starting title like 5a or 6b, 6c, 6d, etc.
Nor did I plan to have really short chapters. The reason Been Blued and Martian Blues have so many is because my handheld computer starts to run very slow when files get longer than 3000 words. Fortunately, this works well with my ‘style,’ as it allows me to go on to the next idea easily. For me, the challenges are connecting all the pieces into a single story line. I’ve only encountered one reader who had a problem following the plot, but she is eighty-one.
The importance of inspiration cannot be overstated. The lack of it is why so many remakes are absolutely terrible. ‘Leaving on a jet plane?’ More like whining on a subway. The original had some sparkle to it. And why do you suppose the Avengers movie was so bad when the original series was so cool for its day? Come on, anyone who watched to the end was practically siding with the villain, who had better, non-nursery rhyme lines. Nursery rhymes should stay in the nursery. (As an author, I blame the writers.)
Seeing as inspiration is somewhat rare, here are a few things you can do to help yourself out. First, avoid any self-doubt–I mean, stupid self-doubt, not the sensible kind that keeps you from repeating nursery rhymes or other forms of plagiarism. Avoid people and writing that denies inspiration. As I’ve mentioned before, I once quit a writing course after getting tired of the textbook author’s constant denunciation of inspiration. She wanted all writers to write in endless circles of revision, since uninspired writing can never be perfect. And, protect your own ideas until you have the opportunity to bring them to completion. You have to let them go at some point, such as actually submitting your manuscript to a publisher, but until then don’t reveal so much that someone else steals your ideas.
Travel as much as you can to expose yourself to different cultures. (Your mind, not your body.) Talk to as many people as you can. I’d recommend at least a few years in retail for someone who wants to write. You meet everyone, including some you’d rather not. Even those experiences can be drawn upon, as long as you’re open to being inspired. ‘Act as if nothing is wrong.’
Thanks for reading. 🙂
Phyllis K Twombly