Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Inspiration Is SO Not Standard

That Chrysler slogan drives me a little crazy. You know, the "inspiration comes standard" nonsense that they tag smugly onto the end of every commercial, to reassure us not to worry, because while we might not be able to afford things like built-in babysitters, we don't have to pay extra for the intangible joy of knowing that the factory was especially enthused when it made our car.

Why do I bring this particular example of marketing inanity to light today?

Well, I was banging away at my new novel idea all day yesterday, torturing myself brainstorming to try to come up with something resembling a plot, and in general working hard to dig up some inspiration. And despite my best efforts, it turns out that it does not, in fact, come standard to me.

Which is normal, I know. But boy, is it hard not to get discouraged when I'm sitting at my computer, staring at the screen, and thinking, "Ok, plot. Yup. Need a plot. Yes indeed. Gotta getta plot. And - GO! GO PLOT! GO NOW! Plot? Anyone? Plot?"

Needless to say, I didn't get anywhere for quite a while. Other people might call this writer's block; I call it PJS, or Plot Just Sucks. Ask me to brainstorm about characters or setting or theme and I can prattle on and on for pages. But ask me to come up with a story arc and I'm useless.

Clearly, I needed to find some inspiration, and it wasn't coming from inside me. Not yesterday, anyway. (Incidentally, my fellow blogger Adrienne Reiter wrote a post on this last week, about where creativity and inspiration come from. Check it out.)

My own sources of inspiration change from day to day, but there are a few good wells I always turn to, and one of them usually helps me get to work. Yesterday, I needed a bunch of them.

First, I turned on some music. I have a lot of playlists, but when I'm desperate for help, I turn to Sigur Ros.

Second, I created a new Word document, and gave myself license to write whatever came into my head, without censure or editing. The only rule was that I had to keep writing.

Third, I read. In this case tips on how to write romances, and some love-themed short stories.

No, I'm not writing a romance novel. But I am writing an overly complex version of a love story, and the romance genre has some well-established guidelines that it's good for me, as someone who doesn't read a lot of romances, to know about.

And finally, finally, it came: inspiration. At one point, I found myself writing in the first person POV - something I almost never do - as one of the main characters, talking about all the ways these two souls keep finding to lose each other. (If you have no idea what the hell I'm talking about, read this post.) And then I found myself writing out a small scene-let as a possible way to end of the book. Which is very, very hopeful.

I don't have a plot yet (sigh), but I did get some productive ideas. So for now, I'll just keep making my own inspiration, and plugging away. I'll find the story someday.

36 comments:

  1. Inspiration is good at hide-n-seek. Unfortunately, it never lets itself be forced into existence either. Reading does help. So does simply doing something totally else for a little while. My personal inspirations saver tends to be pulling weeds - don't know why, but doing that always gets my inspiration juices flowing. Good luck in finding yours!

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    1. Thanks, Tonja! I know what you mean about weeding - it IS satisfying and meditative, in a way. Unfortunately, I live in the city and don't have a yard anymore. So, music and running and reading for me!

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  2. Ouch! Hard stuff to deal with (but you did!) It's funny how going through my bookshelves ('Why the heck did I hang on to THIS dog??? Aack! Donation pile!') helps to get the juices flowing for me. (the story sounds like it could be interesting, btw...)
    Diana at Diana Wilder – About Myself, by Myself

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    1. Hey, thanks. I hope it is!! It's amazing the stuff that inspires. I wish I was inspired by getting rid of old things, too...

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  3. It'll come when you're not ready. And probably at some point when you don't have the time or luxury of rushing off to write it down.

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  4. Hey, plot can be as simple as: protagonist wants something, and antagonist prevents that from happening by...whatever.

    But I feel you on that. I can stare and stare and stare at my computer some days. Yesterday I wrote a thousand words, but my total forward progress was about two hundred and fifty. I did a lot of deleting yesterday. :P

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    1. I know, you're right, but I keep doing dumb things like having the antagonist be death, or a community, or fear, or something complicated like that. Plus, what's the 'whatever'?

      It was one of the deleting days, huh? Ugh, I'm sorry. I hate those. But two-fifty is still forward progress...even if slow!

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  5. I completely meant to write last night...and ended up writing a blog post instead. =/ And tonight I'll prolly be fiddling around in my office, backing my bookcases w/the chevron fabric I bought today. But tomorrow night- I WILL WRITE! ;)

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    1. LOL. Who says procrastination doesn't inspire us??? I say go for it :)

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  6. Music is always the best first step. Glad you're at least moving in the right direction.

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  7. I agree with Alex. Music always puts my muse in the mood for writing. Have you tried asking your protagonist what's the one thing he/she wants most and how is the antagonist (or some other force) standing in the way? Maybe ask your antagonist why he/she should get his/her way instead of the protag?

    Hope you fix your PJS soon. Sounds like you're well on your way. Hands on keyboard always helps. :)

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    1. Thanks for the tips - I don't usually interview my characters, but maybe it's time I tried. And yes, you're right: hands on keyboard is the only way :)

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  8. Best of luck pinning down that plot! I'm sure you'll tackle it soon. :)

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  9. I go through the same thought process with plot :P

    Those are some really good ways to get your brain going. I'll have to use them. Thanks for the visit earlier!

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    1. Glad they could help someone else, too!

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  10. Hooray for your little success! Just keep writing even when it seems like nothing's there, so that your creative juices can start flowing. Best of luck!

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  11. It's always so interesting to see another writer's process. I outline books and characters by writing by hand. I've heard writing my hand keeps your mind sharper than writing on a computer.

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    1. I've heard that as well. Sometimes I find that I WANT to write by hand, too... my handwriting is horrendous, though, so I have to keep it to a minimum :)

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  12. Hey Liz,
    So cool to see me mentioned in your post. Inspiration is SO not standard. Agreed. If it were we'd all have plot lines coming out of our south mouths.
    Cool post. From my experience there is such a thing as a magic plot that if you try hard enough for long enough you'll get to it and the books start pouring out of you. As one writer so famously said, "A single page starts an avalanche."
    And we keep on truckin-
    -A

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    1. True! Still waiting for that avalanche but I do think rocks are tumbling here and there :)

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  13. I'm a bad plotter. Actually, I am you, sitting at the computer waiting for inspiration fill my brain. Every author has their methods. One way or another, if it's meant to be written, you will write it.

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  14. I follow the pantser model for the most part, with a little plotting thrown in after. Sometimes it hlps me to question my main characters, ask them, okay, so happens next? Or if that doesn't work, I'll ask other deeper questions of my characters, delve into where they came from, what happened before, who/what do they love/hate/find funny. These are the questions that help me move the story forward.

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    1. You know, I think this might be an excellent idea right about now. The questioning the characters, I mean, not the pantsing ;)

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  15. Music + freedom to write + stalking the wild character = you'll find your plot.

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    1. "Stalking the wild character" - LOL! Thanks, Milo. I'm keeping that image.

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  16. Plots are always the hardest for me, too. I know how I want it to end, just not how to get there.

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    1. I know, right! You can have A and Z but what the heck happens in between??!!

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  17. Maybe you're like me. I write a whole rough draft before deciding on the plot I want to follow. :-D

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    1. Nope. I wish. I'm a plotter, through-and-through.

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  18. I know how this feels. Currently, I'm stuck on writing chapter outlines for my novel. My mind has been blank for almost two weeks @o@ Normally, music will help me, but nothing is coming to mind. It feels as though my brain turned into a pile of mud, haha. Hopefully, inspiration will strike me before the end of the month.

    By the way, I nominated you for a Liebster award!
    http://pandaninjax0.blogspot.com/2013/10/liebster-award.html

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    1. Oh yuck. I know how you feel! When I get that stuck freewriting really does help me - it might be worth a try.

      Thanks for the nomination! I'm heading over to your blog now :)

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