There’s nothing more aggravating than experiencing a flood of inspiration and ideas while in the midst of a work shift, completely separated from any means of giving concrete form to thoughts. So, try as you might, you attempt to hold these racing, fluctuating processes inside your head until such a time is reached that pen can be placed against paper (or fingers against keys, as you do).
But, of course, when at last you are able to reach a place of quiet and there is time enough for those thoughts to decompress from within your brain, you find that nearly all traces of plot designs and character developments have escaped you. What’s worse, usually at this point you’ll find that all of your focus has evaporated, your mind exhausted from dealing with the doldrums of the day-to-day grind. It’s an unfortunate side-effect of working (grateful as you may be for a job in this climate), the mental and spiritual recovery time cutting so deeply into time that should be spent on creativity.
For myself, I run into this problem on a seemingly bi-weekly basis. There’s a cycle, it seems. Sometimes it’s hard to determine where it ends and where it begins. At one point, there is complete and utter hopelessness, a feeling of despair that the current Work-In-Progress will never be completed or that, in its current state, will never amount to anything of worth. Then, during the most inopportune time, sudden and complete Inspiration will strike, and the flood of ideas and mental rewrites will ensue, often with no mode to transcribe in sight. Next, finally the transfer of idea to written word can begin once time and space allows it. Sometimes, this transfer actually does work out, a new direction achieved, and for a brief amount of time, it seems that the flow of work is fully pressurized and perhaps unceasing. This is a temporary state.
Eventually, snags are hit, sentences begin to dry up, and before long the mind takes dark and twisted turns, believing that all the work achieved is actually trash. And thus, the despair once again sets in. All progress banished to the scrap heap.
I guess what I’m getting at is… I need a new modus operandi when it comes to my personal writing process. As many lists of “Tips for Beginning Writers” will tell you, relying on Inspiration is generally a recipe for disaster, or actually, stagnation (which is definitely worse, at least disaster is dynamic). The problem I have is that I look at the project as a mountain to summit, thinking that the peak must be reached as quickly as possible or at not all (lest I freeze to death?) when in reality, the quest for completion is a journey across a variety of terrains. At times the road will be flat and even and at others, the way will include steep ascents as well as descents – some perhaps subterranean.
The point is, writing a novel is not a one-shot sprint or even a marathon, it is not a non-stop achievement that must be pulled across the finish line at all costs so as to avoid any damaging self-reflection. Writing a novel IS a journey, one that will have many rests and setbacks along the way as does any proper adventure. The important distinction here is that a setback should not amount to descending the entire mountain and beginning anew every time something does not read right or a potential story thread leads nowhere or nowhere good.
Even if it isn’t easy, even if progress seems to be moving at a speed just barely above a halt, I must embrace the idea that it is still moving toward completion and that it is definitely not in reverse.
As the abstract Q-Tip once said:
If you can’t pull it, all you gotta do is Push It Along…