Tuesday, May 24, 2011

When inspiration strikes

Frankie’s blog from last Friday really inspired me. I certainly do what she described: “With each I rushed to my computer . . . or grabbed a napkin. Often it was a napkin or a stray scrap of paper because these brilliant ideas seem to come to me when I’m away from my desk, sitting in a restaurant or in my car or standing in the shower. And I have to get them down or they disappear into thin air.” —Frankie

I suspect most creative types are like this. Many great ideas have famously first been noted on napkins over the years. I have one sitting on my desk at the moment. The fact that it was one of my wife’s white linen napkins and I used an indelible marker to jot down my deathless prose perhaps explains why I’ve been living in my 8x8 studio for the past week. (I jest.) But I do currently have a napkin (paper) with a book idea on it, sitting underneath my computer monitor.

Anyway, like all good writers, Frankie’s post caused me to think: why are we always away from our desks when great ideas strike? What’s happening here? Here’s my theory.

Sometimes our brains get in the way of thinking. It’s pretty humbling to sit in front of a computer monitor or a blank sheet of paper, knowing that we should be filling it up with the novel or short story we’re working on. Quite often we may know exactly what’s going to happen in the next scene – but we have no idea how to get there. Often it’s a matter of a paragraph or two that’s needed to segue from the current scene, but somehow it just won’t come out.

Eventually, we get up in disgust at ourselves for being so stupid and wasting yet another day of work. If there’s a deadline looming, it only makes it worse, and we seem to stumble this way more often in that case.

Or maybe it’s just a creative bolt out of the blue, an idea for the next novel that hits us when we’re not otherwise creatively occupied. Either way, in talking with other writers, it seems we all fall victim to inspiration at awkward times far too often for it to be a coincidence.

...bringing me back to why this happens. Sometimes we just need to un-occupy our brains to get the creative juices flowing again. We can find what we’re missing by not thinking about it. I wrote a blog posting two years ago about going for a walk or a drive when stumped. What I neglected to note at the time is that if I do this and then start thinking, “Okay, now where’s my solution? Come on! I’ve been walking for 20 minutes and nothing’s happening,” nothing will happen. The problem is I’m trying to force creativity. Do that and the muse will stubbornly remain in the distance. The right side of our brain is not wired to work on command. It’s capricious and does things in its own time and in its own way. It likes to work in the background most of the time.

So when inspiration strikes, we have to grab it. If it’s in a situation where you can’t run to your computer and start working, we must take notes, jot something down – even if it’s in the middle of the night. Frankie’s right: don’t let the moment slip away!

Anyway, Frankie has inspired me to carry a pocketful of paper napkins wherever I go from now on. It will certainly cause talk, but I don’t care.

1 comment:

Frankie Y. Bailey said...

Great following up post.

A non-writing friend who has watched me scribbling on napkins suggested that I should try upping my technology -- a recording device of some type. Somehow I don't think that would work for me.