On Writing…and Waiting to Write
Listening to: Dispatch, “Melon Bend”
So about three years ago, I read an article that gave me a great idea for a short story. It was about a family that discovered a runaway teenager who’d been living in their attic for months. When the family left the house for the day, the kid would leave the attic to steal food, use their laptops and ipods, etc. Something about the article stuck with me, and I knew there was a short story there.
I kept saying I was going to write it one of these days, one of these days, one of these days.
And then I kept feeling bad that I never wrote it. I mean, yeah, I’m busy writing novels, but I can’t take a little time to dash off a short story? What kind of a writer am I, anyhow?*
Eventually, I stopped planning to do it next week or next month. I didn’t necessarily lose interest in the base idea, but face it–after three years, ideas tend to lose their shine.
Until you take a shower just two hours before you have to head to work, and then out of nowhere BAM!–what was once a block of marble becomes a full-fledged sculpture in your head. I’m talking voice, plot, characters, and a central conceit that went far beyond the original inspiration.
Cut to me furiously typing out as much as I can while my hair dries, then running back and forth between the bathroom and my office, writing bits and pieces while I get ready for work (put on foundation, run to office–do hair, run to office–apply eyeshadow, run to office–etc.). Three years after the inspiration, and after three years of putting it off, I suddenly couldn’t wait to get it all on paper. And I saw all that procrastination in a new light.
It wasn’t that I didn’t want to write the story, or that I was too lazy to do it–the story wasn’t ready, or maybe I wasn’t ready. Now, three years is a long time for a story idea to bake, but whatever. I’d rather let it take shape after a long time than jump on it too soon and ruin any chance of that magic that only seems to come when I let my mind wander. I’m not necessarily promoting procrastination (most of the people reading this will be writers, anyhow–I don’t need to promote something we’re all far too familiar with!), but in this case, it might have paid off.
And besides, I got to have that lightning-strike moment, that OMG-gasp that comes only with sudden inspiration. That’s always worth the wait.
How about you? Ever gotten one of those out-of-nowhere inspirations, whether it’s in the moment or a long time after? And just out of curiosity…was it in the shower, the car, or somewhere else? Popular consensus among my writer friends is that showers are idea chambers. MY IDEAS LIVE IN MY BATHROOM, YO.
*I’m very good at chastising myself. It’s one of my many talents.