Ideas keep me up at night. Sometimes it’s their excess and other times (like last night) their absence. The latter is far more exhausting than the former. As a writer, it’s my job to capture the ideas on paper or create them if they don’t exist yet. I’ve got capturing down to an art. The other one, not as much. I think it was James Scott Bell who put it this way: “Writing is easy as pushing a concrete block across the carpet with your nose.” If he didn’t say it, I bet he was about to.
Fortunately, I’m not powerless when ideas are absent, because I’m a creator. Making stuff up is what I do. If I just write, letter after word after sentence, thinking aloud on paper or whiteboard or whatnot, ideas must eventually form.
Hemingway got this principle across to me when I read A Moveable Feast.
I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day. But sometimes when I was started on a new story and I could not get going, I would sit in front of the fire and squeeze the peel of the little oranges into the edge of the flame and watch the sputter of blue that they made. I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know.” So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say.
The first sentence of this post wasn’t the first one I wrote today. The first few, when I began at 7 am because I couldn’t sleep, went thus:
Character journal, fear and prologue.
The book is really about identity. I wonder if I should bring that up just yet. I feel anything I say will be pretty random. The link is, my writing. My books. Anything in that arena goes, I suppose. What do I say? Why I chose the title?
Ideas keep me up at night…
I write many scenes between midnight and 3 am, trying to capture ideas with some help from The 3 AM Epiphany, Burkhard Dallwitz’s compositions, and unsweetened Irish Breakfast. I also get help from a couple of writing partners, kindred spirits who encourage and challenge me. I start with a few pages of nonsensical thought fragments which amount to a discussion with my subconscious. It’s quite satisfying to mess around for a while, converting raw thoughts to letters and words, before coming up with something like the prologue to Fear the Hunted. I have to write miles of pages and dig out the quality material afterward. Lately, as long as I stay consistent, quality pops up more frequently.
Now if I can just conquer my unconscious addiction to the passive tense.
I’ll get there.