Inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but the writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time... The wait is simply too long.
- Leonard Bernstein
- Leonard Bernstein
See those legs up there? Yeah, the ones covered with dirt and dust and sweat. The ones that, given how stinkin' tired they were before we left, came this close to going unshaven. Yep. Hair long enough to French braid. THOSE legs.
Those grimy babes had been through it. Spent the day wandering across rocks and dirty trails, back tracking through thorny brambles. Slogging across beaver dams, dodging little kids who were going faster than they were, scrambling to the edge of a cliff to prevent a WAY too enthusiastic eight year-old from tumbling off when he wanted to pick a flower, dragging nieces away from leech-filled water, then watching as their older sister went in anyway, and finally tumbling back down the whole way only to get pelted with pine-cones by boys who had run down and hidden out on a ginormous rock waiting for just that moment.
See that path those legs are staring down? That's the path that the owner of the legs thought was the end of the trail. Surely we were at the top. Surely it couldn't be THAT much further. Holy smokes. It was like we were at the beginning again.
Does this sound familiar, like, at all? Because I'm pretty sure this describes the creative process. Or at least mine. I've restarted the book I'm writing at least eight times. Then I got sick of that and started writing the middle, slipping and stumbling, saving my protagonist from near-death over and over again. I was sure each time that I'd found the beginning of the trail, only to round a bend and discover a new trail. Same thing happened when I thought I'd come to the end. And then I got pelted with pinecones.
I think Mr. Bernstein up there was onto something. You've gotta find a process for the times when you're not inspired, so you don't spend all your time running around in circles getting your legs dirty. And I do believe that process, once you grab onto it, will eventually lead you back to inspiration
Or maybe all that running around is the process--the thing that builds the inspiration in the first place. The thing that leads you to the moment when all the disconnected work and reasoning finds a common thread, and a beam of light appears, and a heavenly chorus sings, and suddenly there is clarity, and you have it.
Maybe it's really about just embracing your process. Embracing you. And not worrying about whether it's pretty, or organized, or makes sense, or matches everyone else. My legs were dirty, but they got me to the top of the mountain. And maybe next time I'll have learned a thing or two, and there will be fewer smudges. Or at least a shorter path.
The approach you develop for "the rest of the time"? I think it's accepting YOU.
(Tune in tomorrow when I bravely post the nauseating piece that I ran around the trail being inspired with before I gagged and wrote this instead. It's all part of the process, right?)