This post is approximately 500 words.
I’ve spent enough time staring at blank computer screens and empty notebook pages to know that sometimes Inspiration is nowhere to be found. It also means that I’ve taken the time to develop some tools that help me coax her out of hiding. In this post I write about banking some of that Inspiration you have on Writing Day 1 to ensure you have some left when you return to the story on Writing Day 2, 3, and beyond.
I’d like to think that anyone who has done a little writing has felt the electric spark when the Idea comes (the optimist in me hopes everyone has because it’s an amazing feeling). For me, time slows and fire nearly erupts from my fingers as they blaze across the keyboard, seemingly impervious to incorrect keystrokes. And still, there is the fear that amidst the stream of thoughts flowing onto the page, I will miss something because my fingers cannot keep up with my speeding brain.
Sometimes this fear is great enough that I stumble into a writing pitfall of mine: I start shorthand outlining. Suddenly, my complex sentences don’t form completely and they trail off before I get to the thought-ending period. Full paragraphs come out as bullet points. On the page, I suddenly have something that looks like a badly-structured poem.
Don’t get me wrong. I completely understand the benefits of a good outline, as well as brainstorming. Love ‘em both. But this, this is different. It’s an inspiration killer whose sole purpose is to heave (please see your thesaurus for the gastronomic verb I really wanted to use) as many thoughts onto the page for the simple purpose of emptying them from my brain. Every single developing thought is coughed up and splattered upon the page. When I’m done, there’s nothing of the Idea left in my head, which is dangerous if what I’ve captured doesn’t inspire me later.
After years of falling into this trap, I’ve developed another way to deal with this situation. I slow down. I take more time with description. Like a pot of boiling water, I try to keep the flame hot enough to keep it from going out, but not so hot as to boil over.
There’s a near-desperation that builds as I write the introduction or transition into that scene I can’t wait to see on paper. Sometimes, I’ve spent so much time on the stuff before my scene, I haven’t even written down the part that got me typing in the first place! And that’s my point. I’ve fleshed out enough that I won’t forget the Idea. But I’ve left that glowing ember in my head and it sits there, smoldering, forcing me to keep thinking about it until I return to the keyboard to fan it back to life.
I believe it was Walt Disney who said, “Always leave them wanting more.” That’s essentially what I’m doing here. I’m leaving myself wanting more.
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© Michael Wallevand, January 2017