Why does inspiration hit at the most inconvenient times?
We’ve all experienced the “shower wisdom.” The kind where you’re lathered in shampoo, unclothed, wet, and exposed, and one of your characters decides to pester you with the best idea ever.
“Please? Please let me bungee jump off the Eiffel Tower then mysteriously disappear at the end of Chapter Four. Please!”
OR, for you YA writers:
“I’m in love with Sydney. I know she belongs to Isaac and that they’re getting married in Chapter 3 but I just CANNOT shake my feelings for her.”
Then, if you’re a stay-at-home parent and are robbed of simple privacies such as bathing or peeing without spectators, your children (like, your tangible offspring, not your literary babies) barge in with a handful of “no-this-cannot-wait” requests. Your audience only grows from there and once all the characters have joined, it’s a full on rave in the bathroom. Par-tay in the shower!
Of course during all of this you’re trying to desperately hold on to that amazing idea before it washes down the drain or is shoved away by the dozens of demands pelting your way. It always makes me think of this meme:
Or there’s those times when you’re trying to get dinner on the table and that little voice says: “You need to have Jane turn left down the forbidden path – not right – because this would “up the stakes” even more, thus better catapulting the reader into Act III.” So in the time it takes you to locate a capture tool (it doesn’t matter how many notepads I station around the house, they never stay with their pens, and vice versa) and if you’re lucky, get that idea on paper, the marinara sauce has started to burn, the 4-yr-old is jamming DVDs into the Bluray player, and the toddler is dancing flamenco on the kitchen table. But was it worth it? Capturing that plot-changing idea? You tell your brain: YES, but can you please withhold any further inspiration until I’m sitting peacefully, uninterrupted, with notebook open and pen at the ready?
Another one we’ve all experienced is inspiration on the toilet. By the time you’re finished with your business the idea is already slipping down the U-bend with everything else that just exited your body (I promise that will be the extent of my potty humor on this one).
Or how about when your characters like to visit you during a medical exam? The doctor says: “Okay, you might feel a little pressure here,” and instead of nodding compliantly, you yell: “Not now, Esmerelda! I’ll help you storm the castle later!” Haha. I joke some, but seriously, those characters have no sense of propriety sometimes.
My poor husband has accepted the reality of having extra “guests” accompany us on our dates. Even if they’re not actively in our conversations, he knows when my characters are buzzing inside my brain because my conversational output will be conflicted with hiccups. For instance, I’ll randomly stop speaking to him mid-sentence because yep, you guessed it, little Timothy is inside my head, suggesting I give him a bigger role in the subplot.
The list is never ending. And it’s really amusing. But that’s what it’s all about, right? Maybe the writing Muses do it on purpose: spark our brains at the most awkward or inconvenient times so that we can experience some comic relief – so that we can survive the actual grind of writing when the time comes.
I was the invisible kid in high school. Think of the Princess Diaries movie. Yup, I was totally Mia Thermopolis. And I was fine with it. I didn’t mind being “painfully shy” (as one of my teachers once put it) or the fact that I didn’t go to any school dances. At least that’s what I told myself. Yes, in hindsight I have some regrets; such as being too much of a ‘fraidy cat to join the track team or not participating in the U.S. History Knowledge Bowl when invited (I’m still sorry, Mrs. Woolsey!). For the most part, however, I felt content. I was safely cocooned in my own little world, glued against the wall, avoiding the stampede of life.
You may be thinking: Okay, Ryder. But so what?
Hear me out.
When I began my arduous journey of novel-writing not too long ago, I was bombarded with questions of self-doubt. The learning curve was steep (still climbing it, by the way – it doesn’t really end! But that’s a different blog post entirely) and I questioned my motives on the daily:
“WHO are you to consider yourself a writer? WHY are you doing this? WHAT do you think you can accomplish?!”
In my head, I was too busy mothering young children; I didn’t have the time to write (haha). I hadn’t read enough books. I didn’t graduate with a Bachelor’s in English. Writing wasn’t my favorite in school (*gasp*)… But I’m theinvisible kid… It took many years but the Muses finally broke through these mental barriers and I suddenly realized that beneath all the low self-esteem and muck was a strong inkling to be heard. I had the impression to write, but why?
Deep introspection led to the discovery that I’ve dragged those “WH – questions” (who, what, and WHY?) around for a long time – at least since high school, perhaps even before. At some point my perception of reality had been altered. Sometimes this was for better, other times, not so much. Either way, blissful, childhood naivete married the harsh realities of the world…and the union wasn’t exactly copacetic.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe that a firm grasp of reality is necessary to survive many aspects of humanity. It’s life, after all. In fact, I think my love for absolutes along with my discomfort with spontaneity have served me well whenever I’ve faced the fast-paced, unrelenting cogs of the world. However, when left exposed and raw, I was still the “invisible kid” from high school. And I knew this had to change if I wanted to get anywhere, even if it was just something minor like conversing with other writers about, well, writing.
But could I do it? No matter the magnitude, could I open myself up to strangers? Not only within the pages of my stories but on social media? In public? On the web?
Ryder H. Clancy doesn’t do stuff like that. Ryder H. Clancy is painfully shy – I would remind myself.
Then came the “HOW” questions:
How do I even write a book, let alone publish one? How do I gather an audience? How do I talk to people: Writers, authors, editors? How? How? How? – all questions which come with variable answers depending on who you talk to.
Even just the thought of Tweeting something had me (excuse the potty humor) rushing to the toilet with the skitters.
“But what if people – strangers! – actually respond to my Tweets? Everyone’s going to look at me!”
Especially that last thought. Ugh. “Everyone will look at me!”
When I was younger my mom made me rehearse how to talk to people because of that very fear. We had little training sessions, if you will. Poor mother. Blessed with me, the shyest child in our family’s history. She did well, though. She got me to the point where I wasn’t peeing my pants when someone struck up a conversation in public; I could put on a pleasant face and manage a few polite responses even if I was dying inside.
So what happened? How did I find myself here, with a website, communicating with “strangers” through my growing social media accounts, and, oh yeah, writing a book? Heaps of work and support from other writers have definitely played in to it (I’ve met some amazing people in this whirlwind of a journey) but I also had to “break down” and dismiss the “invisible kid” mindset. I overcame the insecurities that had somehow taken root back in high school and recognized that what I believed to be true actually wasn’t true at all. Similar to what I underwent in my mom’s “training sessions” when I was younger, I forced myself out of my cocoon; The difference being that this time I compelled myself to stay out, to experience discomfort and vulnerability in order to ignite my real potential – not only as a writer, but as a person.
You see, I had let myself be the “invisible kid” for too long. I had allowed belief to morph into fact, but I was done letting it hinder me. I started applying what I had learned from my mom about talking on the phone or ordering a Frosty at Wendy’s only this time on a bigger, more mature scale. Are my insecurities completely gone? Nope. I’m a work in progress. And I’m still a very introverted individual, which I’m okay with too because it’s part of who I am.
But things have been easier since dismissing the “invisible kid.” My progression as a human being has grown exponentially. I can now more easily empower myself, in turn inspiring others to do the same.
Yes, this writing thing is hard, but this Momma is in it for the long haul.
So buckle those seat belts and strap in those car seats because it’s time to have some fun!