Wednesday, January 05, 2011

When Inspiration Calls the Writer -- Don't Hang Up!

Don't wait for inspiration, just start writing!

When Inspiration Calls the Writer,  What to Do NextWaiting for inspiration in order to write, or searching for the "just right" opening sentence or paragraph will, more often than not, make you nuts.

Then there are the blessed moments when inspiration arrives. 
You suddenly get an idea and pick up pen and paper. (I use “pen and paper” metaphorically because in my inner landscape, I can’t see the Muse sitting at a computer!) Sometimes the inspiration is truly spectacular and an entire story, character, scene, poem or essay writes itself. When you are done, you feel incredibly enlivened. Like a real writer!!!

More often, when inspiration arrives and you sit down to write, all had been so brilliantly clear moments before, becomes muddy.
You fiddle around with words or sentence to recapture that initial burst of inspiration, which only makes matters worse. Now, feeling as if you are in quicksand, you give up. "So much for inspiration," you sigh and feel like a failure.

What’s the answer then? Give up on inspiration?


Rather give up on waiting for inspiration to strike. Inspiration is like the runners high: it only comes after you’ve put in the miles. Sometimes inspiration is a glorious ride, but more often, inspiration is a gift that turns over the proverbial apple cart. Inspiration opens the door to possibility and opportunity.

How did a story in New Jersey in the 19th century turn in a story about King Arthur?
Year ago, I was writing a story set in New Jersey in the 19th century. It was the story of a boy with a very vivid imagination and an ability to see between the worlds. His father was a very practical man, a Russian immigrant and a peddler.

One day I was writing a scene about the boy, details of which have long escaped me. What I do remember is the passion of writing a scene where, out of the blue, a ball of fire comes crashing through the boy's window. I was so excited by what I had written, I picked up the phone to call my agent. I had to read what I had written to someone!

When I finished reading, I expected her to say, “Wow, that was great, amazing, etc. etc.” Instead there was a long, very silent pause, and she asked, “What was it that came through the window?”

Caught up as I was in rush of my creativity, I said, without thinking, “King Arthur.”

“King Arthur?” she asked incredulously.

I felt suddenly stupid. I had no idea what I meant. I had never thought about King Arthur before, at least not to any great extent, and not in terms of my writing. But I do remember that there had been, for a while, a longing in me to explore ancient Celtic culture. I believe I was in awe of the ancient Celts. I have no idea why, but that feeling of awe kept me from exploring that which my heart wanted me to explore.

“What about King Arthur?” she asked.

“I’m not sure. I don’t know...” I was feeling confused but excited, too. A door had most definitely opened!

“Well then, if I were you I would start researching. That was a powerful scene and I’d like to know what it’s about.”

And so a great journey of passion, creativity and storytelling began for me. I have spent many fascinating years exploring Celtic culture, stories and spirituality. I have written several versions of a novel based on the Arthurian Legend; the novel seems to be perennially “in progress”, which is fine with me.

The current iteration follows King Arthur’s mother, Igraine, her young daughter, Morgan Le Fay and a fabulous character named Stagg, who began as a dwarf and servant to Mordred, who was living in the world of the dead (go figure!). Since that first iteration of Stagg, which I thoroughly enjoyed and remember with great joy, Stagg has become a full-grown man, no longer dead! In the novel, he is now a scout in the wars against the Saxons. He is also trained in the ways of the spiritual warrior by a Ossian, who has been thought dead for generations...

But I digress... or I should say, I most certainly have digressed from the son of the Russian immigrant in New Jersey at the end of the 19th century and the ball of fire that was hurled through his window! Now I wonder, who exactly threw the ball. Was it Igraine, Morgan le Fay, Stagg, or Ossian, the wise old spiritual warrior who is more spirit than man?

I believe that all those characters were calling me and had been calling me for years.
I couldn’t hear them, because I wasn’t ready. But when I was ready... inspiration appeared as a ball of fire thrown through the boy's window in New Jersey at the end of the 19th century!
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