Where does it come from and what on earth are we supposed to do with it?
I began writing in earnest three years ago with ten short stories, snippets and journal entries, the first four drafts of a novel, half of another novel and all of the sundry rewrites, some dated back to 1975.
I have heard other writers tell of a vacation, a trip away from home or the unexpected visit of a long, lost relative that spurred them to sit down and write a story. I recently had lunch with an aspiring writer who told me the fascinating story of a dream which she has turned into a novel.
Inspiration is all around us. Like the air we breathe, it nourishes our spirits, and drives us towards the notepad or computer. With urgency and angst, like a heart beat threatening to break through our chests, it grabs us by the collar and tosses us around like a leaf in the wind.
Two of my books began with one sentence that repeated in my head until I sat down and wrote the opening paragraph of a new book. Ironically, in both books those original first sentences have been edited out.
A good lesson is never get too attached to any sentence, phrase or word that you can’t cut it out to make your story better.
The second book was finished and had been read and edited by my trusty BETA reader. I sent the query to several on-line sites, and two on-line critique partners and thought smugly I had done it all.
“It’s a good book,” I told my best reader. “Don’t you think it’s a good book?”
She is a woman of few words and I took the lone “yes” as either a “no” or a “yes, but.”
Self-doubt, the nemesis of all writers, pounded in my chest again, and again I felt an urgency I could not understand. The main character was “cute” but banal, the second main character was “funny” but flimsy.
One afternoon I sat at the computer, a blank page looking back at me and three words sounded in my brain. Three words I had never heard anyone say, and I am certain I had never said, came to me. I do not know from whence they came. I clicked on the internet and put those three words into Google search and found a two page magazine article.
I trashed the book, changed the title, and did a personal NaNo in November to rewrite her. I dropped thousands of words, added thousands more, and wrote a new book.
Again, I sat back, wrote another query and thought, there now you’re done.
Not quite. Two weeks later in the middle of my Christmas madness, I spent three solid days risking my eye sight and my sanity; google here, search there, find another reference somewhere else. I searched from web page to magazine articles.
I read three books of what I had hoped was close to this genre and came away unsatisfied and my nemesis, laughing like a hyena ripped my ego to shreds. “Get back there and do it right this time.”
In defense of this unorthodox occurrence, I must add. I do not believe in waiting to be “inspired” or writer’s block. Waiting to be inspired, you might begin to write something in a decade of Sundays. Since I am not a mystic, I write every day. Yep, even Christmas morning. Writer’s block simply means go to another project and keep your mind active.
I could say the inspiration for this book was the one line I wrote, four drafts ago. I could say it was the one word comment of my BETA reader or the three words that seared a hole in my brain and sent me to Google.
Or I could say what I have been thinking. Something or someone has been directing me. Okay, don’t get me measured for a straight jacket. I don’t hear voices in my head and I have never hallucinated.
I do believe there are angels among us. I also believe in what some call spirit guides. I just don’t believe that this crazy Italian could attract anything but a misfit angel, and my spirit guide would be directionally challenged like myself.
There is no sane explanation for this occurrence. However, armed with inspiration from I know not where I have rewritten the book once more. Who knows, there might be an agent out there whose spirit guide ran into my spirit guide at a celestial convention and, son of a biscuit, there you go.
A good lesson from this is don’t annoy strangers on elevators, never bump into old ladies with your shopping cart and seek professional help if you see bats in your bell free.
Who and what inspires you?