Sunday 14 October 2012

Writerly moments

This sign has suddenly appeared in the fields just outside our village and following a large explosion last week. (Thank you Debbie Found for allowing me to use her picture) We have all been walking through these fields for years and we had no idea. What a surprise that could have been!

Anyway in this blog I have previously spoken about Meg Rosoff and her idea of 'throughness' when writing - that moment when you feel totally connected. (If you are interested she wrote a brilliant article about it in Write4Children)  It is the most wonderful feeling when it happens, though I am sure we all know as writers, it doesn't happen that often unfortunately. Further to this I was talking with a good friend this week about how our respective writing projects were going. He told me about a moment when a character just suddenly appeared complete with name. It took him totally by surprise. He had no idea where they had come from. And it certainly is a very different character but I am not going to tell you about them, that is his story to tell.

What I am interested in is this idea of our writing taking us by surprise. We think we plan it, sometimes to the nth degree and that we know exactly where any story is going. But then suddenly it takes this about turn. It can be a new, unexpected character appearing, or even, and this has happened to me, a character turning round and saying 'But that's not what I would do!' Or they go to a place you had never thought about. Or do something you had never considered. Often all of them making the story better and stronger.  I find these moments can happen when you are so engrossed in your writing and I do wonder if it is our unconscious selves stepping in with ideas we didn't know we had because we hadn't taken the time to think about them.

There are other times when these surprise turns can happen. They are moments when you are doing something totally unrelated to writing. I have been stuck before now, not sure quite how to solve a plot problem or a character issue and I can almost guarantee that the answer will appear in the shower, when I am driving, doing the ironing or anything that means my brain is not really thinking and I have nothing to write with! There is a wonderful story, that I may have told before, of Tom Waits, the American singer-songwriter, who was driving along and ideas for songs kept coming. He apparently shouted to the sky, 'can't you see I am driving!' I think we have to have these moments in order to allow space in our over-active brains to let those ideas in. Unfortunately it is not that easy to contrive these situations, they just have to happen.

I was watching a glorious TED talk (I do love them) by Amy Tan on 'where does creativity hide?' She was talking about how she found when she was writing she would see hints everywhere. And this is something I also find. When I have an idea for a story I will often suddenly start seeing things that are related to it and that I have never noticed before. I always thought it was chance and it was a secret message to me that I was right to write the story. She, more logically and, I think probably rightly so, believes that it is because we are more focused. I do love the romance of chance though....

I am struggling to find the time to write at the moment let alone have wonderful surprise moments but maybe this week will be the week again. There are so many ideas buzzing around that need to be dealt with. I hope you have some wonderful writerly moments.

I heard this and fell in love with it. And it does what it says on the tin, it makes you feel like you are 'Wrapped in your arms' by Fireflight.


  1. I always hit the shower when in need of solving a plot problem too. Or go for a walk, there is a particular point on my way where the answer usually comes.

    1. I love it when the answers come like that. Such a feeling of satisfaction