I talk a whole lot on this blog about inspiration for my writing, but there’s an underside to that conversation that I haven’t discussed yet — what about the times when there is no inspiration? Does that even happen?
Now, I’m not talking about the Muse. Waiting around for that shoulder-rubbing, mind-blowing, exotic yet somewhat demanding gal to show up and “inspire” a story is like waiting for a taxi to show up in Nebraska. I’m sure it happens, but it’s better not to count on it.
What I am talking about here is the inspiration for ideas in a story. Writers get asked about this all the time (as in “where do you get your ideas?”) and most of us say, in one form or another, that ideas are easy. They’re everywhere. The trick is knowing which ones are good. But if ideas are truly everywhere, then why do I find myself staring at my computer screen, clueless as to how to build the next scene? I already know what needs to happen in general. I work off a loose outline. Yet some days, I sit down to write and feel so, well, uninspired.
Where’s that spark that got the whole thing going? Where’s that idea to carry me through? Where’s the excitement I felt writing the last scene? And if I can’t get inspired about this next scene, how will you folks, my readers, get into it?
Sadly, for writers, this is a common occurrence in the course of writing a novel. Many writers call this “the slog.” For some, it’s around 1/3 of the way through. Others hit at the halfway point. And a few, hit the slog right before the finale. For me, it changes from book to book — though more often than not, it hits somewhere around halfway.
In all my years talking with other writers on this subject, I’ve only discovered one method for dealing with this — push on through. Just keep going. Keep writing. Get through the ugly, no good scene and move on. And I’ve noticed two things happen. First, when you go to revise the novel and you hit that scene, you discover it’s not so bad after all, and only needs a little touch here or there. Or second, when you go to revise the novel and you hit that scene, you discover it’s every bit as bad as you thought, BUT now you can see exactly what needs to be done. In a sense, the slog is really delayed inspiration. Painful to go through, but when you emerge on the other side, the inspiration is waiting for you.
My question is this: Do any of you go through this, too, or is it just writers? Do you have a “slog” in your work that you have to push through in order to find inspiration on the other side?
Oh, and can any of you guess what stage of writing I’m at with the latest WIP?