If there’s one thing I’ve learned about writing, it’s that inspiration is a fickle creature. You cannot force it without consequences (usually detrimental). You can beg, plead, and try every manner of trick to get it going, only for it to blatantly ignore you. Then, at the most possibly inconvenient moment, it slams into you like a Mack truck—you won’t have a pen and paper or computer ready, you won’t have the time…
It’s quite possibly the most frustrating thing about being a writer. That or a very close second to listening to all your characters argue and squabble in your head. I haven’t decided which.
Case in point: I’ll give you a play-by-play of my latest run-in with my temperamental muse, which took place yesterday.
Mondays are my barn-cleaning days at my job. I muck stalls, pick the arena, rake the aisle and breezeway, sweep the walkways, pick up stuff left out: lead lines, muck boots, helmets, trash, and grooming supplies. This is all on top of my usual feeding and turn-out. It takes quite a while. I’m usually left alone with the normal barn noises and my thoughts, which makes it feel a lot longer. I used to take my iPod with me, but all winter it was too cold since I needed my ear warmer and can’t fit my headphones under it (I don’t use earbuds; they don’t fit and they’re uncomfortable; I have a pair of ear-only ones that fasten over my ear with glasses-like earpieces; they look silly, but the sound is much better and they’re comfortable). Monday was the first day I’d remembered to bring my headphones with me—I listen to my iPod through my car stereo all the time, but the headphones had disappeared for about two months.
I didn’t start listening to the music until I got feeding and turn-out done, so I could distract myself while mucking. Raking up horse manure is probably one of the most inconvenient places for inspiration to strike. There’s nowhere you can go (no place clean and/or dry, anyway), and usually I’ve forgotten to keep a pen and notepad in the car; they’re usually at home where I took them in the last time to transfer my handwritten work into the computer. I don’t take breaks often, anyway. Work comes first.
So there I was, cleaning out the arena, listening to my iPod on shuffle, thinking about one of the scenes I’ve been wanting to write out for a while now. It’s the new scene of how Dix Osis winds up with Wolfsong’s Warriors—he stows away on the ship and is discovered by the youngest pilot Wolfsong hires: Paul. I got some images and dialogue as to how the scene would work, as well as multiple battle stands among the Immortal (of which my infamous Kett is part) thanks mostly to the fact that I listen to a lot of military-beat-esque music from movie and game scores.
I figured when I got home I’d sit down and work on the Dix scene. I sat down at about 3:30, having wrapped work up sooner than anticipated, and wound up staring at a blank Word document for hours. I did a little work for my Cicada Creek Stables stories, but nothing I was happy with. I felt depressed and frustrated and tired.
I talked to Dan online for a while, but he was multitasking and not very chatty, so we said goodnight. I went upstairs and took a shower, then figured the shower had woken me up enough (it was now about midnight) that I’d read for a little bit.
My mistake was listening to the iPod again. I got no enthusiasm to read, and I didn’t want to go back downstairs and turn my computer on again, so I got out a notebook and one of my favorite gel pens and sat down at the “art desk” my sister built this winter (I’m still housesitting).
Nothing. I couldn’t even get a start down for the Dix scene with the music. So I thought I’d give it up for the night. I’d listen to the iPod a while to help me relax enough to sleep.
I walked into the guest bedroom where I’m staying and was hit over the head with images and dialogue for the ending of Brink, the story I began thanks to National Novel Writing Month.
So I wound up sitting on the floor at the doorway to the closet on a pillow, my Brink binder on my lap as a makeshift desk, scrabbling to write as fast as I could to get the scenes out. The reason for the location? I’d taken the tall lamp and the desk lamp out for more lighting in the “art room” at night, so there was no light except in the closet.
My handwriting is far slower than my typing, but I was writing fast for that. I cannibalized three or four short scenes I’d started to write for other stories and added new elements to suit Brink. When I heard the clock downstairs again, it was two am. And here I sat, wide awake, racing to get everything I’d seen and heard in my head down on paper, despite the early morning feeding to come.
I finally made myself put it down and go to bed, knowing I’d have to get up in a few hours to get out to the barn.
Why doesn’t inspiration ever come when it’s convenient?!