Thursday, 13 February 2014

That Light Bulb Moment - The Creative Process

That Light Bulb Moment

I'm sure you've experienced something similar if you're a writer. It's that moment when you've been stuck for a while and suddenly you know exactly what you have to do to complete the piece and to tie up all the loose ends. I had a moment like that today when I'd been up since 2:30am because of insomniac nine year old. I've done really well this fortnight and I'm already onto what I call my "bonus" chapters. I couldn't sleep and didn't want to spend the wee hours doing very little because that would drive me insane, so I tried to write.

The problem was I had gotten to a point in the book I'm working on where I needed more than just plot, I needed direction too. I needed to know not just where the end is, but what is going to get my characters to that point. So, I spent some time reading, some time playing around online and some time writing a chapter that would work without needing to know the direction. Still though, I wasn't there yet.

The light bulb moment hit me as I was driving out to the local petrol station just before 7 am. I could suddenly see the bread crumbs that I had left myself through previous chapters, pieces that at the time had been  more about character development than anything else and BAM! There it was, the answer to my problem. I knew exactly why this character did that and what their intentions were, even though I hadn't known when I wrote it. That's one of the many things that I love about being a writer. It's not just about being able to tell a story, it's about making the puzzle pieces fit together when sometimes you don't even know what kind of picture you're making.

So, with my new outlook, I made some more character note cards to refer back to because I didn't want this epiphany to get away from me and then be struggling again in a few chapters time. I have been pretty lucky with the fact that most of the time, once I get that light bulb switched on, I don't really have problems keeping it lit. However, I like to be prepared, so character notes were needed.

I'm actually about to start the chapter before one of the big's not the major one, but it is one that will start to make the main characters think that the problem is solved. Once I've lured them into a false sense of security, I'll be able to spring the rest of it on them. I even had the answer to some of my concerns already noted on my character notes, but because those characters had not yet come into play, I had not seen the connection and was wondering and worrying about how to make it.

Having light bulb moments are one of the perks of the job. Being able to plan meticulously works for me (and I did a piece about my planning here) but it's also about being able to think outside the box. To see what isn't in the plan and to go from there. It's all very well and good following the plan, but what happens when the characters don't do as you planned and then you have to deviate to get back on track? For me, as organised as I am, that just sounds like a nightmare and I'm sure other writers would agree with me.

You see, sometimes characters push to go one way when you're convinced they should have gone the other. Writing out a bare bones plan doesn't work for me, but at the same time, you should always be prepared to throw that plan out of the window and go where your characters lead you. You may be pleasantly surprised. You may find yourself writing the story in a different way than you had first planned and that's not always a bad thing. The thing about being a writer is that sometimes you have to change course and as long as your work matches up with that then there is little problem doing so.

So, wherever you are, remember that inspiration is all over the place. That sometimes you have thought up the solution and noted it down, but you haven't looked at it recently. Remember that sometimes characters will walk you down a different path and that it's not always a bad thing. Also, when that light bulb goes off, be ready to get working because it's now nearly 11 am and I haven't stopped since!

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