My friend Cory Doctorow says that he can write simply by sitting down and opening up a vein. It doesn’t matter where he is, or what’s going on around him. When it’s time to write, it’s just his brain and the place he puts the words.
I admire that, and wish I could do it, but it’s just not possible for me. I need to be in a calm and quiet place, both emotionally and physically, and depending on what stage of a project I’m in (rough draft, last mile, rewriting, outlining), I may need other existential things, particular bits of music, types of coffee or tea, things like that.
I guess it’s different for every writer, but I have these — you know, I sat here for almost a full minute typing and deleting the word “silly”, before deciding that it isn’t silly at all — rituals that let me open the creative vein that Cory can tear open at will.
The important thing, I guess, is that the words get written and the story gets told, and what the specific the steps are from idea to publishing don’t really matter, at long as you take them.
Today, I had the barest hint of an idea, and I wanted to know what it would turn into, if I worked on it. Imagine seeing something far away, though clouds and haze. It could be a mountain, it could be a thunderhead, it could be a tumor pressing against your optic nerve. The thing is, you don’t know what it is until you get close enough to see it clearly. You have to take the steps.
So I put on my running shoes, and I went out for a jog, letting my mind wander around, until that hint of an idea began to coalesce into something more tangible. After about forty minutes, I had enough to write down some broad strokes, knowing that once I started writing the actual thing, I’ll know how to fill in the gaps that were left today.
I took literal steps to get my brain going, and to start the process of turning a few scattered “what if…” ideas into something that may turn into an actual story. I don’t know what will come of it, and I don’t know when it will be finished, but I took the steps, and now I have something where I didn’t have something before.