Monthly Archives: October 2014

Urges Without Ideas

We all know about writer’s block, i.e. when you need to put something down with pen on paper but the words just won’t come out. You’ve got your topic, you’ve got your subject matter – you might even have the ending down – but you just can’t write. It won’t happen.

I have sometimes come to experience the reverse. Inspiration hits me like a thunderbolt and the need to write is like a hunger, gnawing at my insides, urging me to write, write, write. I have poetry inside of me at that moment and I know that if I write, it’s going to be great; one of those pieces I wrote about in my last entry – one of those that survive in spite of time and keep on moving me beyond belief. I know my mood and I know the vibe I’m getting; I know what style I want to write in, what kind of words I want to use. I know what I want to feel and what I want the words to make the reader feel. I have it all inside of me. Just one problem. What am I going to write about?

I’m a novelist. This means I always have ideas; parts of the plot I have yet to explore, scenes I’ve been looking forward to writing, chapters that I have to improve, or chapters that I’ve been longing to get the inspiration for.

But on these days, I cannot write a part of my existing novel or novels. It’s something else entirely. It’s like this urge to write something I’ve never even dreamt of before. And then I realise.

It’s inspiration.

So I turn on Mozart or Beethoven or some New Orleans style Jazz and Blues and get to writing. And these are the days when I write poetry.

Because you see, I call myself a novelist. But that’s just pigeon-holing things.

I will not pin myself down to the novel. Defining what I am is limiting, constricting, and to twist around a quote from Keats, I shall not let it clip my wings.

I am a writer. I wish for nothing more than to get urges such as these – an urge without ideas, an urge not pre-conditioned by my own limiting and binding definitions; not pre-conditioned by ideas, themselves pre-conditioned by a plot line.

So there will be these days; frustrating at the start – when I want desire  wish  need to write; something, anything that’s good and free and – most importantly – inspired. And on these days, I won’t know what to write about. I’ll glare and frown and scowl at the blank page and blinking cursor on my laptop. I’ll try to start that chapter I’ve been meaning to write and haven’t been able to.

And then this strangest thing happens. I feel my breath hitching in my throat, and my eyes open slightly wider. My lips part almost as if to speak or smile but doing neither, being indecisive. My fingers seem possessed, and something happens. Sometimes it’s manifested as a plot twist – a new character that changes everything or a new twist within the story that causes repercussions that reverberate throughout the text like an inspired domino effect. And this, though prose, comes out as poetry.

I long for it. I long for the frustration that this urge without ideas brings. I long for it because it drives me to a staring contest with the smug blank page; because it drives me to keep trying and to persevere, and to be stubborn – Don’t give up! it seems to say.

Relax. I never will, I reply, smiling. And then, poetry.

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Being a writer is tough

but rewarding.

Being a writer can be tough; in fact, it usually is. You often write pieces which become dear to you and you read and re-read them over and over again. And you enjoy it each and every time. I know I do. Then comes that day; oh, that fateful day. You haven’t reread the scene in a while. The initial infatuation you had with the words and how they sounded as they fell upon your interior ear – while you silently acted out the words inside your head, fervently repeating them or whispering them, and whispering more and more loudly as you got closer to that part which made your mind climax with exuberance – has died. So, for a while, you left the document untouched, and it eventually disappeared from the recently viewed documents list on Microsoft Word.

But that evening (for it’s usually evening when this happens), you decide to open it again. You click on its title and wait for it to load, and you’re somewhat excited because you’ve missed that feeling, and you might have felt something similar with another passage or chapter or scene that you may have written in the meantime. But it’s never the same, is it? Each chapter, each scene, each sentence renders a feeling that is uniquely theirs. It cannot be duplicated. The affect they render is unique – like a fingerprint. There will be similar affective resonances, but it can never be exactly the same. So, you have missed that. You want to feel it again. You wait. It loads. You begin to read.

Doubt. It hits you like a thunderbolt monster truck seeking vengeance. You feel something, but not that feeling you distinctly remember. You begin to second-guess yourself; perhaps your fondness of the memory of writing it and reading it has grown with time and become overblown; exaggerated. Truthfully, though, this is rarely the case. The problem with being a writer of fiction, especially if you are writing serial fiction, is that you are human and humans grow.

We are affected by everything we see, read, hear, touch, encounter, think of, learn, and experience. Every single day, we become someone new in little ways. And when we change, so does our perception of the things we read and write. And when we re-read something that was written quite a while before, we’re reading it with different eyes that may have seen the world afresh. And it’s disappointing. Trust me; I would know.

And sometimes…sometimes, no matter how much time has passed, there’s that one chapter; that one scene or sentence, that you wrote – your creation – and no matter how many days or weeks or months or even years have passed since you last read it, you open it again and get the shivers. It gives you chills. Your own writing manages to move you in perpetuation.

And that, my friends, is what makes all those other disappointments and nerve-wrecking doubts worthwhile. That is one of the many things that make being a writer so rewarding.


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