Chasing the Muse (or something equally arrogant and/or stupid sounding…)

The hardest thing about writing, for me, is calming my head down long enough to allow inspiration. Often, once I have that inspiration, different characters will come to mind (though not all the time). I can then usually sit down and fill a sheet of paper with notes.

The next hardest thing about writing involves where to begin off of that sheet of notes I have in front of me. I need another burst of information or inspiration. I have a few procedures that have worked in the past that I use to try to bring about this second burst. I can revisit the idea, to try to attain the original feel of excitement I had when it first came to me. Other times, I talk to my kids about what I have so far – they rarely have anything to say directly, but the simple act of talking it out will sometimes help to kind of gel things together. In many cases, I talk to my wife. She will usually have something to say one way or the other, meaning: (a) she may like the idea and have a suggestion or insight, (b) she may not care one way or the other, and tells me why (if I ask), or (c) she might hate, dislike, or not understand the idea and tells me why. In any case, she shoots from the hip and shares her true feelings. Sometimes none of these ideas work, and I’m left with a sheet of notes of varying detail. I have many such sheets. Of notes. Many.

If I have achieved the inspiration that pulls a story together, and that’s a big if, the next and usually last hurdle is to have that all-important first sentence. The first scene is usually already burning in my head by this point, but the first sentence is what really gets the motor running. Once I have that, I’m off to the races.

I was going to say that when the story is going well it flows directly from my head to the paper/screen, but that isn’t always true. There are often times when those easy-breezy words end up being chopped or changed later, or I realize that it’s all crap or doesn’t fit at all and try to blot it from my mind (thankfully, this only happens about a third of the time). There are other times when the story is there, and formed into a workable shape in my head, but the going is slow; I’m fighting through words and sentences at a snail’s pace when this happens, picking and choosing meticulously to get down exactly what I intend. This isn’t as frustrating as it sounds; it’s a work and effort that I enjoy, but there is no doubt that it is work.

The work of creating a story out of a string of ideas is daunting. What do I have to share that might interest anybody? Where is the core of the feeling that this idea has engendered in me? The why. Can I grab those feelings? Can I say something new or in some way that really comes through? Will I be able to make myself, or the reader, think, “Hey, yeah. I like this.” That is what I want as a writer; some clean lines that feel like they’re worth reading – worth taking time out of the day to pay attention to. Something memorable, even if it’s less the words remembered and more the emotions they excite.

Time to read and go to bed. Goodnight.

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