Tuesday, October 09, 2012

The Value of Patience

After having spent a lovely time at Bouchercon in Cleveland this past weekend, I thought I’d get away from the promotional side of things, something I’ve been concentrating on for the past month or so of blog posts.

Since I haven’t had much time to write anything for my current novel project over the past two months, I’ve been breathing a sigh of relief. Huh? Shouldn’t I be more antsy than ever? This book has gone hardly anywhere since early summer because of work-related business and promoting my new publication, The Fallen One. (You knew I was going to work that in somewhere, didn’t you?)

The reason I’ve felt some relief is that I had reached a plot impasse. Not being able to write, I didn’t have that roadblock staring me in the face every time I sat down at the computer.

I did have a clear idea, as I always do, about the beginning, middle and end of the story, but things hadn’t been going well. The middle is where most of us tend to get in trouble, isn’t it? You’re standing there at a crossroads in the plot, wondering which fork to take. Having taken the wrong route several times in the past, I could recognize the danger signs. I even took a few tentative steps down each route to see if I could feel the literary ground firming up beneath my feet. When there was nothing to confirm that there wouldn’t be a trackless swamp just around the corner on either route, I just stopped and waited.

And waited.

One thing I learned, even before I began to write novels, way back in my more musical days, is that you can’t force or hurry inspiration. It will come at its own time and of its own accord. It’s like the old Mark Twain quip: “Never try to teach a pig to sing. It only wastes your time and annoys the pig.” Forcing inspiration is very much like getting vocal lessons for your pig.

So for the past many weeks, I’ve been sitting in the middle of a road of my own making, waiting for the construction crew to arrive and lead me to novel-istic salvation. They arrived on Sunday as I traveled home with Vicki Delany along the I90 along the southern shore of Lake Erie. As always, I wasn’t remotely thinking about my novel, but we were talking about self-published books. Suddenly, the solution to my plot conundrum just popped up inside my noggin with an almost audible “ka-ching”. (In fact, I looked over at Vicki to see if she’d heard it, too.)

The solution, if you care to know, was to take a hard right, drill through that large hill (The Alps) and move a whole section of the book to Rome from Paris – hence the tunnel. When I woke up yesterday morning, too early to go downstairs since we had house guests, I went over my new plot revelation. The more I sounded it out, tested it against some plot ideas I already had developed during my wait, the better the trip to Italy sounded, especially since I had already planned to move the action to Venice shortly after this section.

The inspiration I had been lacking, that little germ of an idea that now seems so obvious, makes me feel like a complete dolt for not recognizing it. It won’t even take much adjustment to the quarter of the book I’ve already written to make the change snuggle in nicely. Not only that, it will open the door to some plot tension I wanted to generate between my main character and her husband.

How could it have taken me so long to see the solution? It’s not like I wasn’t standing there with open brain shouting to the winds, “Hit me with your best shot!”

But that’s the way it always is with inspiration. It comes at its own time and speed, and you just have to patiently wait its arrival.

Or maybe it has something to do with that road back to Toronto from Cleveland…


Charles Benoit said...

Although he's taken a lot of flack for his creative fabrication of Bob Dylan quotes, Jonah Lehrer's "Imagine: How Creativity Works, has a cool chapter that explains exactly why you had to be not thinking about it to solve it. Plus, when you ride with Vicki, her brilliance rubs off on all passengers.

Rick Blechta said...

Gee, and I thought it was the fall foliage.

Thanks for the tip. I will look that up!

Charlotte Hinger said...

No one can spend time around Vicki without becoming inspired! She's a role model for all of us.