So let's talk about inspiration and ideas. I've heard some writers say that people read their work and ask, "Wow, where do you get your ideas?" Although no one has really asked this question of me, because I don't yet have very much in print, I find it amusing. It just makes me think that maybe somewhere, there's an idea store on the corner of Inspiration St. and The Muse Ave., where you can pick up a great hook or a fascinating plot for the low-low-low price of $1.23 a pound. I know that's not what people mean when they ask this question, but it amuses me nonetheless.
I wish there were such a place.
My ideas, such as they are, come to me...in odd places. I was seriously starting to worry about my next book as I finished the edits on the previous one...I had a few germs of ideas, had even started writing bits and pieces, but they didn't really pan out.
One Friday night, as I talked to my mom on the phone, I lamented the fact that nothing was coming, no matter how hard I tried. She assured me that it would happen eventually. She always has faith in me.
A little later, as I drifted off to sleep, a vague, fuzzy idea that floated into my brain. Then I fell asleep.
The next day, a Saturday, I had to drive up to Meadville to meet my mom, sister, two aunts, and a cousin for a day of shopping in Erie. The next day we were going to visit my grandma, who was recovering from a serious illness. As I carried my suitcase out to my car, I glanced at my "writing bag" (I have like, two notebooks and some folders and a thesaurus in there, and I take it everywhere).
I thought, "Nah...I won't have time to write. I'll just leave it here."
HA! Yeah, I know. Never, ever go anywhere without a notebook and pen. I KNOW. But I was going to be really busy....
The universe has a such a funny way of making you regret your words and actions within about, oh, twenty minutes.
So I embark on the drive, which, by the way, is one of the most boring drives ever...you're on the same road almost the whole time, and it's just...blah. I seriously was not even twenty minutes from home when it came to me.
The lightbulb over my head was so bright that a few passing cars veered off the road.
I freaked out. I wanted to pull over, right there in the middle of nowhere, and start scribbling my ideas. But, oh dear...no writing bag. No receipts. The one time I clean out my car....
Then I realized that all was not lost. My handy-dandy MP3 player has a wonderful voice recording function. Bingo!
So right there, as I drove, I started babbling ideas into the MP3 player, getting more and more excited as I went along. Then I called my husband and freaked out about it, because I just had to tell him that I finally had the idea for my next book. When I got to Erie, I went to Target as soon as possible and bought a notebook and pen, and scribbled out two pages of ideas as we drove. Boom, boom, boom--I couldn't stop.
There are two lessons to be learned here.
The obvious: Always take writing materials with you wherever you go, whether you think you'll need them or not.
The subtle: Just have faith and go with the flow. It'll come, if you let it.
If you don't feel that you are possibly on the edge of humiliating yourself, of losing control of the whole thing, then possibly what you are doing isn't very vital. If you don't feel like you are writing somewhat over your head, why do it? If you don't have some doubt of your authority to tell this story, then you are not trying to tell enough. --John Irving