Wednesday, March 7, 2012

That Flash of Inspiration

Actual image of my desktop.
Actual blank page that I'm not writing on.

My husband is a grad student in economics, and despite how different our worlds tend to be, there’s occasionally a funny overlap. Right now he’s working on the topic for his research paper, which could turn into his dissertation which could turn into his job market paper which could turn into the reason he gets hired when he graduates. But it all comes down to how good the idea is.

It’s not uncommon for him to pad around in socks in our apartment, head bent, a frown on his face, puzzling ‘til his puzzler is sore.

“I just need a good idea!” he says, and I laugh. I’m “between books” right now, aka wasting my days on Wikipedia trying to find what next to write about.

“Tell me about it,” I say.

Last night, I heard his footsteps race up the stairs outside. He burst through the door, tossed his backpack to the ground, and gave me a kiss, all in about two seconds.

“I ran all the way here!” he said, face flushed.

I seriously wondered if he’d been mugged. But—no. He had an idea. He was so excited, he almost couldn’t even explain it to me, but he knew this was it, the idea he’d been waiting for. I couldn’t help a twinge of jealousy.

Writing is all about inspiration, and that flash—that excitement—is so important. I don’t really lack for ideas; there’s plenty I feel like I could write about. But ideas that get me so excited that I run four blocks home to start working on it? Nothin’ yet.

Probably the most frustrating thing is that there’s really not much to do about it. The point of “flashes” is that they occur when you least expect them, sitting on the bus, taking a shower (my last one came while I was making an omelet for dinner).

I think every writer is scared that the next big flash won’t come for them. There’s a lot of trust—in your own ability, in letting yourself relax, in giving your brain room to work—and writers, twitchy little loners as we are, can sometimes be not so good at trust.

Right now, I’m taking lots of deep breaths, checking out lots of books from the library, and giving myself long moments to just mindlessly sit while I wait for the big flash that will get me over the mooooon happy about my work.

What about you? When was your last big flash of inspiration? What do you do when the flashes ain't comin?

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