Monday Writing Motivation: Finding the next idea
I mentioned persistence last week – the persistence, in that case, of a cygnet beating its great wings against the water as it races down the waters of our lake in its determination to take flight.
It fails on every attempt but its last one, which takes it into the air. I imagine its astonishment at finding the lake falling away below it as it rises for the first time into the heavens.
But the persistence I’m thinking of this time is the persistence of a writer hammering away at his keyboard in a dogged attempt to get the right words down, in the right order. And I’m thinking, specifically, of my attempts to get my thoughts in order, find the right words to express them, and do so with a modest attempt at elegance, over the last five hundred iterations of these blogs.
Let me examine the major obstacle I’ve faced in passing this, quite arbitrary, milestone. .
Perhaps most importantly is my constant despair at finding another subject. You have no idea how often I have gnawed my knuckles (I speak figuratively) as I cast about for something to write about. On more than one occasion I think I have resorted to the cowardly writer’s way out, and written about my despair at not being able to find another subject.
On other occasions I have found myself writing a piece that seemed vaguely familiar. On checking, I discovered that I’d already covered the same territory, sometimes in words that were frighteningly similar to the words I’d just written. Which gave rise, in turn to thoughts about the nature of memory and statistics regarding people of my age showing the first signs of dementia.
Sometimes I just thought, Bloody hell, let me just write the first thing that occurs to me… and rediscovered the magical properties of free writing, since one thing inevitably leads to another, and a bad idea often precedes a better idea and anyway, “nothing”, as Seinfeld memorably demonstrated, is often a great subject all on its own.
But my point is that if you force yourself to write when inspiration (and it’s not at all obvious what that means*) is lacking, you can find yourself, at the end of five hundred blogs, with something worth celebrating.
Do I need to underscore the obvious? Well, I’m going to anyway:
Push on when you’re at your wits end about where to go next. Write a scene when you can’t imagine what the scene’s about. Give your characters something to say when you yourself seem to have nothing worth saying.
And hey, by the mysterious alchemy of creation, those first few cliches will trigger thoughts that will lead to speculations that will generate ideas… that might just be worth exploring.
So the process involved in writing 500 little meditations on a writer’s life afloat has given me this assurance: that there’s always another idea awaiting discovery.
* I know what the definition of “inspiration” is: it’s the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative. Well, to be mentally stimulated is to fire up the old neurons. Well, anything and everything fires up the old neurons. Watching paint dry demands attention, attention involves an array of neurons which dutifully fire up. An MRI of a writer at work would probably not be able to distinguish between the mental activity involved in boiling a kettle, from that involved in composing a sonnet. I speak out of ignorance, of course.
Let me know what you think. I’d love to hear!
PS – Submit your writing reflections
Our 2023 writing journeys are coming to an end and, as writers, we know that every journey comes with obstacles, lessons and victories.
We’d love you to write a brief reflection on a significant moment from your writing year to share with the All About Writing community. We’ll feature it in our final newsletter of the year. Email your reflection to Emma by 1 December at the latest.
As our thank you to everyone who submits, we’d like to invite you to join us at a special Scene Analysis Masterclass on Monday 11 December.