Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Story Ideas Spring From the Head of a Pin

I was listening to National Public Radio last Sunday, when an interview was being conducted with blues singer Robin Rogers, who is in the process of dying of liver cancer. It was a wonderful conversation and when they played some of her music I discovered a new CD I have to have. I received a greater gift though as she described the way she was trying to leave this earth as “a sweet departure.” The phrase sent my mind reeling with different story ideas.

One day I was reflecting on how when I first started dating my late husband I could not seem to form speech adequately anymore. I stuttered, flushed red, spat out something non-sensical if I could manage to say anything at all. I was so terribly smitten by him that I lost the power of speech. Remembering that led me my latest novel idea – which I’m working on now.

A sports commentator recently described a victorious moment as appropriate for “bumping knuckles.” What a great title, I thought. Bumping Knuckles, the great American novel by Kathy Hall. It sounds great. Now all I have to do is devote a year of my life to writing the book. Oh, and think of a story to go with the title.

It’s never about finding an idea for a story – short or long – for me. I believe that’s universally true for writers and storytellers. What’s difficult is sticking with that idea long enough to make it come to life. Now that’s tough! Unless you’re lucky enough to have that tiny little idea leap from the head of a pin, slap you in the face, grab you by the shirt collar and shove you into your writing space. Then, if you’re truly blessed, it smacks you around a little when you are slacking and stands over you with a riding crop in hand, urging you on.

Not all inspirations are so dominant. Some secretly seduce you in your sleep, suggesting the next chapter in a dream or perhaps tickling you awake to speak the main character’s backstory into your handheld recorder that lies awaiting your touch on your nightstand.

As a writer – and perhaps for any type of artist – the true discipline comes when you force yourself to corral and subdue the multitude of ideas long enough to cultivate just one. Incredible difficult. The mind (and sometimes the body) aches to move on, explore one of the other, defocus and frolic with the playful or dark thoughts that swim in the back of your mind endlessly.

Now that is temptation.

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