Saturday, May 16, 2015

When Lightning Strikes...You Bottle that Stuff

You just never know when an idea will come along. Am I right? Likewise, you never know when a block you keep stumbling over in your story will suddenly work itself out of your way so that you can get on with the writing.

For me, these sorts of things happen when I’m not only not writing, but I’m nowhere near my desk or my laptop, and I have nothing—not even a scrap piece of paper—on which to jot down a quick note. It also happens a lot when I’m drifting within that netherworld separating sleep from wakefulness. One of the voices in my head (Morgan Freeman’s, for those keeping score at home) taunts me with a half-formed thought, idea, or breakthrough and I have to push myself from my bed so that I can write it down before I forget it all by the time the alarm goes off the next morning.

Little slices of writer torture like this tend to occur for me in the same places: when I’m taking a shower or shaving, or my personal favorite: mowing the lawn, and I let my mind wander, as I often do. A lot of the time, I’m pondering the current project in-progress, or maybe the next thing in line that needs a little brain space as I figure out what I want to do. Then there are the occasions when my noggin decides it’s going to run off and do whatever it wants, and to hell with my current project and deadlines and all of that.

So it was a couple of Fridays ago. I was outside, pushing the lawnmower around my yard, when my brain does its usual hop-skip-jump routine through various unconnected thoughts running through my head. For whatever reason, it opted to settle on this idea for an original science fiction concept with which I’d been toying off and on over the last year or so. I could never get any traction with it because I was always tied up with other writing projects and deadlines. Last summer, I figured that after I left the regular work force I’d find time to devote to this idea, but I’d done such a nice job of lining up contracted work, that this thing got pushed aside in favor of the writing for which people actually wanted to pay me.

On this day, however, my brain gave all of that the finger and started mulling. A few things started to click into place. Then there were a few more, and a couple more after that. By the time I was finished cutting the grass, I was convinced I had at least the skeleton of what I wanted this story to be from start to finish. Maybe that was why I was pushing the mower at a run that last half of the front yard, before dashing into the house to write down as much as I could before my brain started to fog up.

(Note: This sort of thing also happens during the showers/shaving thing, but my wife isn’t as amused when I go through tearing out of the bathroom on my way to my desk.)

Will anything come of this little bout of brainstorming? I don’t know. What I do know is that when something like this happens, I need to stop whatever I’m doing and write down as much of it as I can, and maybe even see if other dots start to connect themselves. After all, I don’t want to forget any of this stuff.....

.....what was I saying again?

So, what about you? Where does this “lightning” tend to strike, and how do you respond?


Charles Gramlich said...

With me, lightning strikes best it seems after I take a little time away from a manuscript.

Liane Spicer said...

Usually when I'm smack in the middle of something else. A couple years ago I was deep in rewrites of a short story for a workshop when lightning struck in the form of an idea for another story. Had to stop and write the new one; it ended up getting shortlisted for an important prize.

It's weird, but those ideas that arrive out of the blue are my best ones.