Hi! could you give me a minute? I’m waiting for inspiration to strike. It’ll just be a moment.
Any time now….
Hmmm, while my muse tries to come up with a mind-blowing theme for this post, at least I’ve got myself in the right position. I’m sitting at my computer with my fingers on the keys. Sometimes I think that’s half the battle, just being ready to act. If I were lying in bed or watching TV I can tell you exactly how many words I’d write: zero. That would probably be the case even if my muse was as sadistic as Carol Kane was in Scrooged.
So being ready is a good step in inviting inspiration to come. The other thing I’ve found is that being in motion makes things easier than standing still. No, I’m not talking about running around my small office, but about getting the words moving. I’ve written three novels as part of National Novel Writing Month, an annual event where authors try to write a 50,000 word novel in the 30 days of November. One thing about NaNoWriMo is that there is not time to stare at a blank page and wait for just the right scene to appear in my mind. I’ve got just under 1,700 word to write every day and there’s no time for dilly-dallying. One trick that I’ve developed is to just give my character something ordinary to do: make coffee, take a shower, eat some toast.
Sometimes just writing about something simple will get the thoughts moving. Does my hero get to finish his toast? Does he run out of hot water before he’s finished showering? I’ve found that just by getting into the flow of putting words to page my mind will be automatically working ahead on what comes next. When the true point of the scene emerges it will seem so ridiculously obvious that I wondered how I could have missed it moments before. Even if the domestic details that came before are boring and need to go away, that’s part of that long process called editing. But that’s another blog post!
However, my muse can be a perverse little creature, and tends to strike at the oddest moments. Many have been the times that I’m working in the yard when I’ll freeze for as some new idea in relation to my current work washes over me. This is inevitably followed by a long “Ohhhh!” of discovery. Of course I want to run inside and pound on the keys, but alas the lawn is only half-mowed, so a little self-discipline is called for.
Another place where inspiration often strikes for me is in the shower. There’s something about me and water and soap that gets the ideas flowing. I’ve had some great ones there in regards to character arcs and plot. It happens so often I’ve considered getting a waterproof memo board. When I get a watery revelation my reaction is similar to what I described before, only wetter. Once again a wee bit of restraint is called for, or else I’d drip soap everywhere as I ran for my computer.
I think the key to both my yard work and showering inspirations is that my mind is not fully engaged in the creative process. I’ve got a certain portion of my attention paid to what I’m doing, and so the rest of my brain is allowed a little more freedom to explore new paths. By giving the detail-oriented side of my brain something to do, my more impulsive side can lead me to some wonderful places.
As I look over at what my fingers have accomplished here I realized that I’ve just written a blog post without any help from a pesky muse. And guess what, you can perform any kind of creative endeavor without one, too! If you’re a writer, sit down at the keyboard and just start writing. If you’re a painter, stand in front of your canvas and get your brush moving. And remember that sometimes giving your fore-brain something simple and mindless to do releases your hind-brain to present a creative solution or idea you’ve never considered before.
Inspiration can’t be forced, but sometimes if you put yourself in the right place at the right time you can invite it to join you. When that happens you’ll freeze for a moment and let out a loud “Ohhhh!” of discovery. Then your family and neighbors will think you as strange as mine do, but as long as the ideas keep flowing I think we can both live with that.