You can check out my books on, and at Barnes & Noble too.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Chaos of Creativity

Last night, I was struck down by a new story idea - I say "struck down" because it's about as debilitating as a migraine - and it got me thinking about a blog post. Juggling a third story would be nuts, so the idea had to go in my little notebook of "Things I'd Love to Write but Probably Never Will" until a later date. I hate having to have that notebook. I wish ideas came in a tidy, orderly fashion right when I needed them, not before or after. But ideas are not cooperative.

In college, most of my fellow students had a writing approach that I longed for. "I want to write a story about....." they'd say, and they'd sit down with pen and paper and plan out topics and characters and relationships between those characters. And then they'd look at me and ask, "what do you want to write about?" And I'd get this blank, stupid look on my face, because I had no idea, and the harder I tried to decide, the more limited my creativity seemed to be. The more I tried to just decide on a topic, the more my ideas became sad, cripple little things.

My writing process is this:

I have this bank, if you will, of settings and objects that are aesthetically pleasing to me. Things like classic muscle cars, old barns, empty fields, cemeteries, haunted castles, redneck dive bars, leather jackets, boots, and dark, nighttime forests live there. I love music (that's a whole other post) and I drown myself in it while I clean stalls, when I jog at night, and certain songs pull certain aesthetic images out of the "bank".

Then I walk around for days with this spark of an idea. A ghost. A whisper. And I can't dwell on it too much, or it'll get scared and retreat.

And then, finally, a bomb goes off in my head. Character names, their relationships, their purposes, the all comes with an explosion. It's chaotic and overwhelming, and, usually, the idea absolutely sucks. But it comes, and not always in a neat, organized package. Most of the time, they're useless, but sometimes they can be beaten into submission.

For days after the explosion, I see story scenes in vivid, detailed flashes. But always scenes from the middle of the story - the beginning always, always has to be forced. Ugh!

Last night, the hero was Caleb, and he was kind of a dick. The vampires in his story were not sparkly or friendly, and weren't the good guys. Caleb went in the notebook, but it's still hard to steer my thoughts back to where they're supposed to be.

I don't like my process, because I don't think it's productive and I know I'll never come up with anything "hip and fresh" that way. Novels that are "hip and fresh" are not borne from explosions.

But better to know your own weaknesses I guess. I'll never be tan, never execute a real cartwheel, and explosions happen! :)


  1. I LOVE THE PICTURE!! But it makes me sneeze just staring at it. HA!

    We are very similar in our "process"... my greatest ideas come to me at inopportune times....

    when I'm naked and the shower.. and am at a loss as to write them down...

    in the car driving down the highway...

    or sleeping... I recall having a GREAT ONE.. and thinking to my sleeping self, 'wake up you idiot and write this down'...

    drugged up on pain pills, can't sleep because they make me hyper and itchy and I "scribe" out stellar stuff on auto-pilot while sitting on my kitchen floor in the wee hours of the night/morning... and then i "wake up" and am astonished, at what I've written... wow! is that a new one? Sleep Writing? ha!

    but blessed are those who have ideas at all... so I shall not complain!!!!

    and a favorite quote from a favorite book...

    “...When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, I make an occasional cheese dip.”
    - John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces

  2. I love all your vignettes and look forward to them. They're personal, engaging and strangely comforting. I love waking up to new ones. I haven't started Made For Breaking yet but I'm loving Lighting. Looking forward to meeting Caleb soon. Can't wait for that bomb to go off and see the results from the explosion!