Friday, February 26, 2010

A Funnel of Creativity

I've never had a problem coming up with ideas for stories. Normally I amuse myself during car rides and before falling asleep with fanciful images that often spark entire story lines. If I don't want to get too caught up in developing a new story before falling asleep, I'll pick somewhere along the thread of a current story I'm working on and just walk around the space in my head—climb the trees at the temple, play tag with the cats, explore the streets around Aria's home.

But this last week, I haven't been able to allow my mind to wander. Each time I purposely engaged my imagination, thumbing through ideas for short stories or longer ones, it was like coming up against a brick wall. Nothing. It was like all my creativity had been washed away. Frankly, it was unnerving.

I didn't panic. Barely. I've got a lot of non-writing things going on in my life right now, and I decided that was what was blocking the flow of ideas. I wasn't actively working on Aria, so it wasn't crucial that I be in her world and I also didn't need to think of new story ideas because I have enough on my plate.

None of which mattered. There was still that little voice in the back of my head questioning me, asking, Are you sure you have more than these two stories in you? Are you sure you're creative enough to be a writer?

Last night, I lay awake, listening to my cat purr herself to sleep beside me, and I decided to see if I could force creativity. I can't. But what I discovered was that an idea for a book that I've been purposely ignoring wouldn't leave me be. Hours came and went with just me, the darkness, and thoughts of this book. It was like having a hangnail—I didn't want to fuss with it, but every time I thought I'd turned my mind to something else, there I was, picking at this idea again.

Eventually I got up and wrote down some notes. Five handwritten pages (front and back) and a hand cramp later, I was able to return to bed. The idea was out there. Every angle and every nuance that insisted on being thought was down on paper.

The moment I laid my head down on my pillow, images began to flow again. I fixed a plot problem in a story that's not even in the queue to be written yet. I had a vivid picture of a scene for another book. Aria's world was right there for me to explore again. It was like that one book idea, the one that I didn't want and didn't completely want to care about, needed to be gotten out first. It was the gum in the funnel, blocking all other ideas from coming through. Once it was removed, the regular, steady flow of creativity was released again. What a relief!

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