…write them down!
This past week I was struck by clear images. Conversations, appearances and emotions for a short story. I know when to listen to my muse so listen I did, and I wrote the first draft in two nights’ work. It felt so good to do this. My past two WIPs have been more “concept” driven, so I haven’t had that insatiable fire burning inside me to writewritewrite since I did my most recent draft of Y Negative last summer. And that’s fine. I’ve still gotten work done, and I think that is excellent practice for the craft (as I have talked about in previous blogposts like Habit).
So I wanted to talk a little bit about how ideas come to you and how you handle them. For me, I used to have two very physical jobs that allowed me large amounts of time to think about my stories while I worked. This is how I wrote both Claudia’s Gift and Y Negative back to back. I was able to remain so ingrained in the book world that the ideas just kept flowing. I would go through whole conversations in my head, with all the physical movements mapped out, before I wrote them down. I had the opportunity to practice the dialogue, try out different wording to see what invoked the right emotions. And then of course when I wrote it down it came out differently but it’s the practice that counted. That’s how I wrote those novels so fast (at least when one has a full time job) and that’s how I really honed my ability to write dialogue.
There really is a lot of merit when people say you have to get in the zone to write. At those jobs I was able to just stay in the zone all day so when I got home the scenes would just pour off my fingertips. Now, I spend all day analyzing data and talking to clients and my “zone time” is reduced considerably. So to get myself in the zone, I read through the previous scene (or two or three) to summon all those thoughts and emotions so I can continue. Sometimes, it doesn’t work so well, but other times you’ll be able to just slide right back in and pick up where you left off.
That’s how it goes for full novels. You spend so much energy weaving the plot that “zone time” becomes a factor. But with short stories, the whole piece can be written in one dazed sitting.
In the case of the piece I wrote last week, I was walking to the break room and the visions just filled me. The man’s voice, his eyes, his struggle, grabbed me and almost didn’t let me get back to work. I had to jot some of it down on my lunch break to get enough satisfaction to be able to focus for the remainder of the day. I live for those moments. I feel flustered and desperate and frustrated and I love every second of it. It’s why I do what I do, for those moments of inspiration. For those crystal clear visions.
How do ideas come to you? And how do you get in the zone?