12 November 2009

The Voices in Your Head

I apologize for the delay in posting. Wasn't feeling quite up to par yesterday. It was all I could do to keep my head up while waiting on disgruntled customers to call and tell me their computer woes.

Is it possible to digress at the beginning?

The overwhelming response to the quote posted on Monday confirmed to me that we, as writers, do seem to hear things others don't (won't or can't). We live in a sort of in-between place, where this world and the world of imagination intersect, at random intervals, pulling us in. We have little control over when this happens. I've been sitting in a crowded movie theatre, watching the film, when inspiration stepped in front of me and smacked me in the jaw. Bookstores are notorious places for walking through mirrors. I'm a firm believer in bookstore goblins. They roam the shelves looking for an unsuspecting creative soul, ready to pounce, attach themselves to our brains, and regurgitate every particle of a quasi-great idea they've ever digested. That explains why I can't walk into a bookstore without getting the overwhelming sense that I'm not fulfilling my creative call and I must hasten to the cafe counter, order up a grande of liquid perseverance and crouch in a corner until my fingers are bleeding from paper cuts and pen jabs.

Our characters pop up and the most inopportune times. I've seen my characters walking down the street, driving cars, even in other people's films (seriously, Mr. Shayamalan, did you HAVE to get there first?!?). They sneak up on me, whispering places they wish to go, things they need to do, foes they need to slay. Really? And you need to do that now? I'm watching Murder, She Wrote!

The point of all this insanity *ahem* eccentricity is to get us all (myself included) to see our gift as something that isn't just a thing we do, but something that is a part of us. Writing is in my blood. My great grandfather was and my grandmother is a writer. But it goes deeper than that. For whatever reason, I was chosen for this gift. No matter how hard I try to hide it, how fast I try to run from it (which is futile as I've never been much of a runner), or how emphatic my "not now, I'm busy!" is, this gift will always, ALWAYS find me out.

What should we do when we wake in the wee hours of the morning, when the sky is dark, the floorboards are cold, and the bed is singing it's siren song, and the glimmer of an idea haunts our thoughts, urging us to pursue it on paper or screen? The easy answer is to roll over and chalk it up to a good dream (or too much rich food at dinner) and try to go back to sleep. But nothing worth doing was ever done by taking the easy way out. Coffee will work as well at three a.m. as it does at seven. I've tiptoed across cold floors many times to jot down a dream or story idea given to me in the night. Often, I've written it down on a paper towel by the light of my cell phone.

The point I'm trying to make is this: don't look at this writing life as something you do when you have a free moment, when you're good and ready to let the story take over. Look at it as a lifestyle, something that cannot be helped, that must be nurtured and allowed to run free. We all have daily obligations, we all have things we must attend to. We all must learn to balance our writing with the rest of our lives. But to separate it from our lives is to do ourselves damage. It is entwined with our breathing, linked to our souls. When it hits, even a scrap of napkin and a purple crayon can be enough to start our next project. Don't feel like you have to hide those urges or quiet those voices. Let them come, open yourself up to them. Keep a notebook with you always in case of character coups. Don't be afraid to pursue an idea when it first strikes you. And besides, what harm could really come from a sudden leap upon a table in a department store to recite the latest brilliant prose your villain has composed? The time alone in a padded cell would be more than enough to finish that novel ;)



Jody Hedlund said...

Ah, what an inspiring post, Jen! I agree, our writing is a lifestyle, the way our mind works no matter where we are or what we're doing. My struggle is trying to keep it from overtaking my thought process! And then also finding the time to take those wonderful images and translate them into the written word!

Have a wonderful writerly day!

My Farmhouse Kitchen said...

Hi Jen....what you wrote is so very true...and you are a great writer....I struggle daily with confidence...lack of it....but I just keep plugging along....your blog helps keep me going..very inspiring...and Thank you so much for introducing me to Hot Toast and Jam...I am IN LOVE with it....

it is darling..

I'll check back later,

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

I really am trying to do that. It's become such a part of who I am that I can't just do it in my "spare time" anymore--not that I have much of that anyway!

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Character coups! I love it!

Sometimes I take pictures of people who look like my's just so amazing to see these folks walking around! One day I'm going to get in trouble with this technique. :)

Blondie said...

What an inspiring post Jen. As usual, you give me just what I need to stay motivated on this novel. I too feel the same way about the bookstore and always come out wanting to write my novel. Have a great day girl. I have added you to my favorite blogs list! Kori xoxo

Stephanie Faris said...

Earlier this morning I was writing about how we writers seek something from the real world to make our stories seem more real. Music that we think our characters would listen to, shows they'd watch, etc. We get so caught up, we want to make them like us.

Tamika: said...

I'm starting to grasp this more and more. It follows me where ever I go, and it's nice to have so company.

Great post Jen!

ElanaJ said...

This is so true. So many people have mentioned to me that they want to be writers. I'm like, "Do it then!" BECOME a writer.

Karen Walker said...

Thanks so much for this post today. YOu have no idea how i needed to hear what you've said here. I feel like an alien sometimes because my process is do different from others.

Terresa said...

WoW, this is one of my favorite blog posts about writing yet! It is inspirational and moves through me as I read it like a wave, washing over me and filling me with the desire to write & keep on writing.

I'm a writer. It's as much part of me as my blue eyes and 1,001 freckles.

PS: Let's meet up on that department store table sometime. I'll bring some chocolate to share & we can chat about the characters we're developing in our writing!

Ratty said...

This has helped me to try to push myself a little harder to concentrate on my writing. I have a few stories that I've been working on that I keep pushing aside. I don't know what will ever become of them, but I know that they need to be told.

Glynis said...

The deeper I get into my writing, I find I am scribbling notes, eavesdropping and looking for corners to write in.
I love your trip to the bathroom and writing by the light of your cell phone. I wrote in the toilets at my daughter's wedding, using the envelopes from their wedding cards.
My son in law sparked off the inspiration, so I am blaming him. *grin*.