When I work on a project, my preference is to stay locked onto it until it’s done. It’s when I’m already working on a project however, that I tend to have my best moments of inspiration. Unfortunately, they are rarely related to the what I’m working on. With a minimum of two more books left to complete in the Gemsong Saga series however, all of these ideas are really starting to pile up. There has to be a better way to deal with inspiration than simply filing ideas away for later.
The Problem with Filing
Inspiration is often compared to a lightning bolt, and with good reason. It strikes suddenly, and when it does, the idea glows white hot, like steel in a forge. Like that steel, a story idea can be shaped into whatever the author chooses. Let it grow cold however, and it will be difficult to do anything with.
I have a lot of great ideas that have grown cold. While I have tried to bring them back to life, without those original flames of inspiration, they tend to remain rigid and brittle. I have a memory of what I wanted them to be, but without that spark, I can never seem to move them past that initial vision. The result? They get bounced around for a bit, I get frustrated, and they get refiled. If that happens, what was the point of writing them down in the first place?
Learn to Embrace Inopportune Inspiration
When asked about the secret to his prolific writing, Isaac Asimov said he never sat and stared at a blank sheet of paper. The key for him was to simply move between projects as creativity and mood dictated. Rather than fragment and water down his work, this approach gave him renewed passion and clarity.
Rather than improving one’s work then, focusing on a single project and ignoring everything else may actually hurt it.
Think of a child eating a meal with a giant sundae waiting for them. The average child will rush through the meal as quickly as possible so they can get to that sundae. It may be the greatest meal they will ever have, but it won’t be appreciated because their sights are set on what comes next.
Likewise, if an author forces themselves to finish a project before pursuing a moment of inspiration, what comes next becomes what’s important. Eager to play with that new idea, the current project becomes stale. It’s no longer a labor of love, it’s something to get finished before you play with the shiny and new. The end result is a rushed story, or one without any real soul. Nobody wants to read that.
Tackle each idea while it’s fresh. Let it run its course, and then move back to other projects as the mood dictates. Don’t squander inspiration, as it will rarely ever be there when it’s convenient.