Wednesday, March 22, 2017

When Inspiration Requires Assembly by Hillary Manton Lodge

Sometimes, the ideas just don't come and we're stuck. Panic time, right? Maybe not. Read Hillary Manton Lodge's advice for those times when those ideas stop flowing. -- Sandy

Hillary: As writers, we have a complicated relationship with inspiration.

If ideas didn’t come to us, we wouldn’t write – it’s as simple as that. But ideas don’t tend to arrive fully formed and realized. Instead, they show up on the doorstep in a series of boxes and without instructions. If you’re adapting a work, you’ve at least got instructions, but not in modern English, and at any rate, what’s the fun in following the rules?

All of this idea assembly is grand until you need to reach for the next piece of the puzzle and it’s nowhere to be found.

It’s a place I found myself last week, as I began working on a new project. I’d just wrapped up copy edits on my new release, Jane of Austin, and after hammering away at the nitpicky stuff, was ready to get back to making something new.

But the new idea was still a logistical puzzle, and when the answers didn’t pop instantaneously into my head, I began to flail. I need to schedule a brainstorming session, I thought at first. I wonder if Writer A would have an idea.

And then I stopped. And took a breath.

I’ve written seven books. Five have been released, a sixth out in June. This whole book idea thing? Not my first rodeo. And yet my brain is quick to hit the panic button.

Here’s the thing – these ideas? They’re mine. They show up on my brain’s doorstep. And sooner or later, I figure out what to do with them. Every time.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m deeply indebted to the brainstorming help I’ve received over the years. My second and fifth novels, in particular, benefited from story-loving people willing to come play make-believe with me. But right now, it’s early days. I have the time to let my brain relax and get back into the habit of making things.

So I took a walk, and rather than slip into panic that the pieces weren’t coming together, I looked at the trees and their baby leaves, and let my thought wander. I considered one idea, discarded it, and tried another, like a jigsaw puzzle of a big blue sky.

And after a while? The right pieces fit into place. I came up with solutions that I loved. And once I had the framework, I could chat about it with a friend who could see where I was going with it and spin it out just a little further.

So writers – here’s the challenge. Call in the reserves if you must, but see if you can hold out until the end of the process, when you’re tired. Enjoy the beginning, and hold it close. You’ve learned the craft, so trust your brain. Trust the creative mind the Lord has gifted to you. Give your mind a chance to play, and enjoy it when it takes you somewhere extraordinary.

Do you have a secret for opening those creative doors in your mind?


Hillary Manton Lodge is the author of the critically acclaimed Two Blue Doors series and the Plain and Simple duet. Jane of Austin is her sixth novel.

A storyteller at heart, in her free time she enjoys experimenting in the kitchen, graphic design, and finding new walking trails. She resides outside of Memphis, Tennessee with her husband and two pups.