Before you think I’m nuts (I am, but I get paid for most of it) the following blog is mostly tongue in cheek. Sometimes readers forget that I write fiction, and that means that I have a tendency toward hyperbole. Not that I did that here. Nope. No way. (grins)
I like writing. I mean, I do it for a living, so it’s important that I like it, right? But a lot of the process of writing isn’t exactly fun. A lot isn’t exactly creative. Some of it is problem solving, some of it is technical, some is search and replace, some is relationship building, relationship destroying, boring, exhilarating, foot-stomping fun, tedious, and let us not forget, some is exhausting. Most of the time it doesn’t pay well enough.
Then there’s the more personal side of the job. Strangers give me advice on my hairstyle, clothes, appearance, my love life, my religious life, and my home life, because they think I *am* my characters. People in jail write me love letters. People want to sell me their great ideas. Or better yet, give me their ideas, have me write the books, and put their names on the covers with mine. Fans and other writers (no one here, thank God) fall in love with me, send me love letters, and want to suck out my brain with a straw. No, I am not drunk or stoned. It’s true. Misty, stop laughing.
Even with all that, I still love my job. All except one, tiny, miserable part.
But let me backtrack a bit. David wrote about getting ideas. The idea part of writing is fun, because it’s sorta like a treasure hunt, but there’s no map except one I am seeing inside my head, and the treasure, well, it’s in the same place, but I can’t always get to it from here. I have to go somewhere else to start. It is like being crazy, hallucinating weird things, hearing voices, seeing parts of plays no one ever produced—letting my brain freebase on creativity. You know—the most fun part of writing.
This blog is about the next step in the creative process. The *I-got-an-idea-now-what* phase. I’m in it. Oh, baby, am I in it…. I had tea with a writer pal Monday and discovered that she is in that phase too. We compared notes…. And here, for both of us, is where the nutso, head-banging part of being a writer lives and breathes and walks the earth and terrorizes small children and dogs and scares our families. I am totally serious. This part of writing is, for me (and for my pal) hair-pulling, sleep-stealing, nerve-grating, and just plain freaking awful.
Why? In my case, it’s because: I. Don’t. Know. What. To do!
All my life I have needed to know what to do next. As long as I know what I can do to help or fix a problem, I am content even if the fix and help is painful, exhausting, and difficult. But when I am in idea-land, an idea in one hand but no clue how to control it, where to take it, or how to make it into something wonderful people might want to read, well…I am lost…. And half crazy with the excitement and the potential and the possibilities of both utter disaster and complete triumph. Holding onto the idea is like holding lightning.
I have an idea and it is churning inside me like a dervish, like a demon on crack, like a Chihuahua on meth. It fills me with explosive energy, and the energy has no outlet. NONE! NO OUTLET! It is stuck inside me, and I don’t know what to do with the energy-idea. I can’t sleep until I have a direction, a conflict, a character, and a plot that fit together like skin on a drum. It has to resonate and have rhythm and life and it has *feel right*. And for me, it is the worst, most painful part of the creative process. I’m in it now. I have an idea for book three in the Jane Yellowrock series. Just an idea. And it has me in its grip and it is shaking me like a rat in the maw of a fox. Even my skin feels electric and agitated and awaiting…something. I lie down to sleep at night and can’t because it’s racing around inside me, bouncing off the walls of my mind.
But I am not alone in this crazed phase. My writer pal and I shared about this creative-phase. (waves to writer pal) She too goes through it—no sleep, no rest, just this *IDEA* bouncing around inside, looking for a conflict to ride or a character to conflict. It made me feel so much better to know I am not alone! You have no freaking idea. My writer pal says it’s like a burning bunny tearing through her, around and around, dropping flames everywhere, starting fires, spreading and growing and nowhere to go with it. Knowing I was not alone with this particular crazy phase was a huge relief. (Though my family may accuse me of running at the head of the pack when it comes to being nutso.)
This is the Big Bang part of writing. Got a seed, an atom, a whiff of the future. Need some nourishing soil or a cyclotron or a crystal ball. An idea, just waiting, ready to sprout, humming with the potential for conflict or violence or romance or catastrophe. Back when I first started writing, I would have a glass or two of wine to help me live with the insane djinn in the bottle of my mind. That looked to be getting out of hand, so I gave it up in place of just living with the crazed phase, knowing it wouldn’t last too long. And it usually doesn’t. I keep reminding myself of that.
So. Anyone else ever have a crazy-demon-idea riding them? What did it feel like? Did it go anywhere? Did it ride you into a story, a book, or maybe a bottle of pills or Jack? If it took you someplace creative, where did it take you? What did you get from the manic phase of writing?