I’ve just had a wordgasm.
Hear me out.
I’ve just had the kind of half hour that writers across the world dream of: complete focus, ideas flowing, fingers tapping, two “punch the air” moments, one scream of excitement, a few tears, and 500 pretty good words on the page at the end of it. I call it a wordgasm.
You know what I’m talking about. (Don’t go all coy on me, now.) Those moments of giddy inspiration that seem to make the words leap out of nowhere into your mind and (hopefully) onto the page. You may have been struggling with a particular paragraph or plot conundrum or structural challenge…and suddenly the answer is right there in front of you, delicious and mind-blowing, and…you’re flying.
Let me tell you a secret though: It’s not really effortless.
Just as a show or a concert only runs smoothly thanks to many hours of hard work behind the scenes, so the gift of “sudden” inspiration is the reward for simply showing up and writing, hour after hour and day after day – when you’re tired, when you have no ideas, when every sentence you write is shit, when your fingers feel like lead on your keyboard and your head feels full of cotton wool.
It can take a while to warm up when writing. You start slow, you write a crap sentence, you doodle, you make a cup of tea. You write another sentence. And another. You cross out two. You write three more. You grab some chocolate and hurry back to your seat. The words start to flow. Soon they’re tripping over themselves to make it onto the page. You’re away.
And from this, my friends – not from daydreaming, or doodling, or waiting, or hoping, or crying, or suffering, or stomping up and down, comes those breathtakingly wonderful moments of inspiration.
I went away for a weekend by myself as I was nearing the end of writing my novel, with the sole purpose of finishing it once and for all. I didn’t quite get there, but here’s what did happen. I worked, by myself, in a friend’s holiday home by the sea, all day Saturday and most of Sunday (interspersed with a bit of running/beach walking/croissant eating). I came away vaguely disappointed that I still had some work to do, but these things always take longer than you think, don’t they?
The best thing about the weekend happened a day or two later. I was running, and thinking about a tricky section of plot that wasn’t working. I rounded a corner, and something in my mind went “click”, and there it was. The solution simply…presented itself, and suddenly I knew exactly what to do to not only fix that particular section, but also make it immeasurably better.
I am convinced that this moment only happened because of the hard work I had put in over the preceding days. I was in “the zone”. My muscles were warm. I was primed and ready for the solution to present itself.
Hard work and a willingness to commit first. Inspiration second. Not the other way round. That may not be the news you want to hear, but I’m all about keeping it real. No faking. 😉