Writing is (at least for me) quite a bit like a fire hose – when it’s on, it’s ON. And then sometimes, it’s not. Thing is, very often that hose is pointed in a direction I’m not expecting, and that’s what I wanted to talk about today.
That spontaneous burst of creativity, the rush of words in a mad whirlwind in your head, the flood of images and dialogue that’s just dying to get out of your fingers and onto the page – that’s not something that I can just call up any time I want. I suspect even the most experienced writers have trouble creating that magic on command. My solution? If it’s there, if it’s coming, let it out. Write it down, right then. Carry a recording device of some kind – I’ve got an app on my smartphone – and talk it out. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just so the words are saved somewhere.
And here’s where the difficult part comes in. Very often – for the last week, actually – that fire hose is open, but not on the piece I’m currently writing. I’ve got all sorts of ideas for stories that aren’t the one I’m working on, actually, and basically none for the one I’m on. That’s a problem, as I’ve got a deadline in a couple of weeks. Thing is, it doesn’t matter. When that happens, write it all down anyway. Open a new file, get it out. It doesn’t matter if it’s what you’re working on or not, just write. To continue my earlier metaphor, that fire hose may be pointing at the wrong house, but at least it’s on. You can always come back to your current story later; it’s more important to take advantage of the creative spark while it’s burning.
I know what arguments you’re going to have. “It’s not the way I work,” you’ll say. “I have a really tight deadline, I have to get this done,” might be another one. I say, “Shaddup and write.” I can’t tell you how many great details I’ve lost by stubbornly working on something that wasn’t inspiring me. Oh, sure, in some cases I remembered the general idea, and was able to write them later – but it was joyless work. Come to think of it, the stuff I was focused on writing was joyless, too. In contrast, going with the flow and writing whatever is flooding out the hose is exciting and fun, and leaves me so charged up that going back to the original project becomes a breeze.
So when that fire hose starts to blow, man, just let it. Get it out, write it down. It’ll be worth it in the end.