Sunday, April 11, 2010

Light Bulb Moments

There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.

                                —W. Somerset Maugham

We all have them. Aha moments. Epiphanies. Breakthrough out-of-the-box thinking.

We break the code, come up with an untold story, or finally just ‘get it’.

A lot of what writers write about writing is overwritten. Much has to do with writer’s block. All is well-intended guidance, but the pieces of advice I find most valuable are about staging and observing.

If I need to write a dark scene I set MY scene, first. I shroud myself in darkness. The music might by George Crumb’s Lux Aeterna. The ambient lighting is austere. If it’s a lusty sex scene to write, the candles are lit [even in daylight] and I might choose the sultry notes of Ravel’s Bolero to fill the air. Staging is a valuable tool in order to feel and live the scene before you write it. Music and lighting are a good start, but think about all the senses you have, because when you write, you want to WRITE all the senses.

The second profound bit of advice is to always keep your notepad, be it loose leaf paper or electronic device, within reach, then get yourself out in our world. For people-watching, head for an airport, a coffeehouse, or a crowded beach, and just plain eavesdrop. Maybe you'll only walk away with a unique name you overhear, or a good title for a plot unknown. Sometimes, Holy Moly, you’ll walk away with a well-rounded character, a full scene, or even an entire outline. For me, another important element in getting out into the world is to get out alone. Find quiet and solitude. Convene with nature. Just be. You’ll see!

I found myself troubled to read an interview with Sue Grafton, upon nearing the end of her alphabet series. She’s likely to name her last book, “Z is for Zero”. [Writer’s Digest, Feb, 2010] How sad. I’m sure it’s not writer’s block, per se, as much as dealing with the pressure of turning out 26 books. Grafton is known for her dry wit, and much to her credit her newly released Undertow is some of her best work, but still…

With or without deadlines, remind yourself that the filament is always attached. The light bulb is forever connected to the omniscient source of creativity. Sometimes it just takes a little bit of nourishment and effort to pull the switch.

Today I wish you a shatterproof light bulb, promising you effervescent light, and the shadows that come with it.

Just Be. You’ll See.

1 comment:

  1. Great post.

    I love the "Just Be" concept. Often, I think we push it. Force the words. And when that happens, we get something flat and austere.

    I too stage. My surroundings can be an important benefactor to the scene I'm writing. Yeah, sometimes I can come up with something in the most chaotic of circumstances, but mostly . . . I like to ease myself right into the middle of the story.

    Thanks for this insight!