It would be nice if the creative process was predicable and on command. You’d sit down at the keyboard and there it would be, just pouring from your poetic soul onto the page. Yeah, right. How often does that happen? Writing is mostly hard work, herding those slippery, evasive words into an intelligible format one sentence at a time - kinda like cat wrangling. But ideas, those little buggers, can pop up at any time, lightning across the blank heavens of your thoughts, blinding, illuminating, and gone in a flash.
How to catch them before the sizzle fades, that’s the trick. The biggest trick of our stock and trade as writers.
We all remember exactly what we were doing at some momentous event in our life time. The impressions are still as rich and fresh as they were then. Why can’t inspiration be like that, instead of that spark that fires and fades before we can capture it?
"Be prepared!" That all inclusive Scouting motto serves a writer well. Expect the unexpected. If you get those bolts from the blue at a particular (and inconvenient) time, be ready with that Mason jar to trap them while the light’s still bright. When you’re in bed? Keep a flashlight and a notepad on your night stand. In the car? Use the record app on your phone or keep a small notepad in your console to make notes – at the next stop light! At the kids’ events? Again, carry a notepad with you - At All Times! Or send yourself an e-mail or text message (again, NOT while behind the wheel of a moving vehicle!) so you can refresh your memory later.
Post-It notes are my best friend! They’re my Mason jar of ideas, bits of dialog, topics for that next pesky blog post. And they come in great colors to excite my OCD/ADD soul. The inside of my purse looks like a murder board, with bits and pieces stuck all over it. They’re small, light, re-stickable and your new bestest ever inspirational friend. When plotting, I’ll use the inside of a file folder and begin sticking Post-Its with scenes, characters or dialog along a timeline (you can use a color for each - if you're REALLY OCD!). Nothing fancy and completely portable, giving a visual overview of your mental process as it's ticking happily along. Just tack additions in, move them down the timeline, make adjustments wherever and whenever necessary.
My "favorite" place to get inspired is in the car on the way to work in the morning, during the long open stretches along MSU farmlands from Lansing to Okemos. Peaceful, quiet (except for my CD songtrack for the current WIP) and just enough coffee to stir the ole brain pan. Yesterday, I was driving in, bemoaning the end of the last book in my four-book House of Terriot series that will lead to the last in my 10-book By Moonlight series. Ten years of my life. What to do next . . . I didn’t want to leave these vivid characters behind . . . and there it was. That sudden bolt from beyond, whispering, “Next generation YA/NA . . .” Needless to say, I was scribbling like mad when I got into the office, even before I turned on all the lights! Those Post-Its are in my purse as I type.
And just in case you're in the mood for a little escape from the barrage of work thoughts, let me offer a getaway . . . the rerelease of my w/a Dana Ransom contemporary, TOTALLY YOURS, is on sale for just $0.99 until month's end. A vacation for the mind if the body and bank account can't afford to take one.