I have recently finished the second draft of last year's NaNoWriMo novel. It took three months, much longer than anticipated and longer even than it took to write it in the first place. Add to that the summer slump, a number of personal changes, and a general sense of lacking direction and the pandemonium of life and mind is complete. Now I feel a bit like I'm treading water, wanting to move, but not really knowing where to, so this post is as much a to-do list for myself, as it is a bit of an insight into where I hope ideas come from.
1. Personal Change
They revolve mostly around my Other Half and I now sharing the small space I used to call my own. After a successful trial period, in which my life mostly revolved around his erratic work schedule, I'm working on slowly reinstating the routine I used to have. Claiming back my evenings and weekends, without neglecting aforementioned Other Half. Thankfully, he is the most patient, supportive and understanding person I have met in a long time, so I'm optimistic. Filing it under: work in progress
I must say, the time it took to get draft 2 into a decent condition has drained the life out of it for me. When I was finally done with it (she says, while going through the manuscript on her Kindle to make sure the many changes are consistent), I was very glad to put it aside. Don't get me wrong, it turned out much better than I expected, but I've grown tired of figuring out technology I barely understand. The part 2 I intended to write this year is on hold, because right now I'm no longer sure the idea is any good. I also just need something different. Without technology.
I have a couple of days off work in which I hope to find my next project, which brings me to the question I ask myself most often these days. Where do ideas come from? Or, as my friend put it, what inspires me?
I was shocked to find that I had no answer. My ideas seem to come out of nowhere. One moment I'm sitting on the bus, staring out the window. The next I'm scribbling in my notebook. Back in April I was worried I was running out of ideas, and even as I was thinking that, I had one that may well end up being my next project, though, as of yet, it is no more than a core idea without a real plot, characters, or a setting for that matter.
I'm still no nearer to the answer of where ideas come from, but maybe I'll do better in answering what inspires me. To be honest, when my friend asked, I sat in silence for a minute. I had no clue. My dreams are often the source of ideas, and I love my lie in for that very reason that I can chase after my dreams in the morning and build on them and potentially write them down. Weird and interesting places help as well, as can be seen from my blog post when I visited the Highlands a couple of months ago. I've a couple of trips planned during my few days off, which will hopefully kick my mind back into action.
But mostly, my inspiration comes from my characters. Once I have a voice in my head, I am beginning to have a story. Until then it's just an idea, but once I hear the person behind it, I get to have a plan, I get to hear about details and the other people involved. I may even get another voice and find out about motivations and pains. I get someone to root for. In a way, I find myself with a new friend, who, for a time, will share their life with me and tell me all about them, their loves and hates, their joys and pains, their home and the places their journey took them to. As I have mentioned before, for me, the characters make the story. I am merely their scribe.
What I need mostly to hear their voices, is silence. Not necessarily actual silence, because sometimes a song may carry a voice to me, but a silence of the mind. So, for a time, I need to switch off my own life. No worrying about work, bills, or even what to cook for dinner tonight. This is the most difficult part of writing for me, particularly during the week, when I often find myself too tired to do actual writing by the time I managed to switch off my own life. I tried working in the morning instead, and found myself thinking too much about what I needed to do once my assigned one or two hour writing slot expired. And worrying about the time you have left before you need to take care of your own life rather than your imaginary friend's, is about as helpful as counting the minutes of sleep you have left when waking up before your alarm, desperate to catch some more zs, but unable to fall back asleep.
But once I have that voice and the core idea, I have the passion I need to pull through with a project. Because, really, it's the passion that finishes the manuscript and sits down with the second and third and any other draft thereafter. Because without passion, there is no soul in the story and, in my opinion, it's the soul that makes a story magical, no matter the content.
3. The Future
While I'm hoping to find my next novel idea, a friend suggested writing short stories and getting them published in magazines. I quite like the thought, if I had the ideas to go with it. I think in that short stories are both easier and more difficult. I only need one idea rather than many and I can write about a moment in time rather than a period of time. But I also need to be concise and have something to say in very few words, which is not my strong suit. It also means I need time. Time to write on several projects at once and not confuse the voices in my head when I do so. This may come with certain advantages, depending on the amount of time I have at hand, but it will certainly involve a learning curve for me as a writer. So far, I explore that path by just writing down the first thoughts that come to mind when I wake up, with some success. The short story path is definitely one I will have to look into, especially considering I feel the need to push the writing a bit more into the foreground. It is when I am at my happiest, and happiness is something we all need in our lives.