Have you heard them lately, the words in the air, floating around unseen? They can be quiet, discreet things and go unnoticed if we don't listen. Then, when they know they have your undivided attention, they will SHOUT OUT! Before you think I'm completely mad, let me explain. In fact, here's a question: have you ever been struck by a sudden thought or idea, an image maybe, or a word or two, not at a time when you were trying to think of something to write about, but seemingly out of the blue, when you weren't even thinking about your latest WIP (work in progress)? I would imagine the answer to this is a resounding YES! So you'll know what I mean by the words in the air.
The thing is, lately I haven't been listening very much. I've been far too busy getting on with proper writer type things, like editing, writing new things, plotting, re-writing old things, blogging, promoting, keeping my accounts in order so that I don't go upsetting Mr VAT, that type of thing. And, because I have immersed myself in all of this, because I have been a woman on a mission, pre-occupied with word counts and what I have and haven't finished, I have made no time for the words in the air. In fact, they seemed to have stopped appearing altogether, and what is worse, I didn't even notice!
Then, I reached a sticky point - the woman on a mission hit a brick wall (metaphorically speaking) a few thousand words into my current WIP, my first YA (young adult) novel. I had managed to get past a similar sticking point earlier on in the novel by using index cards to help my plotting, but now, as the dramatic action was supposed to increase, I found myself drawing a blank. After a lot of angsting and huffing and puffing, none of which was the slightest bit constructive, I decided to put it to one side. So, plot plan, chopped up cards, sketches, notes, were all dumped on top of a cupboard and left. I have to tell you, I was grumpy about it. After all, I was a woman on a mission. I wanted to get on with it. But it just wasn't happening for me, so I abandoned it, for three weeks.
A few days ago, two things happened on the same day - rather a coincidence. A fellow writer and friend visited a disused mine and tweeted a picture of it. My reaction was a sharp intake of breath as the image reminded me of my deep-rooted fear of enclosed spaces. The same evening, while reading a Famous Five book to my little girl, one of the characters discovered a staircase leading to an underground tunnel running under the sea. Suddenly, there it was. The answer! The missing piece in my puzzle. Why had I not thought of it before? But there's the rub. If I hadn't stopped to look at the photograph and taken an interest in somebody else's experiences, if I hadn't taken time out to read to my daughter, would I have found the answer? Probably not. I may have found another one, but it's unlikely that it would have been this one. To add to this, the idea of a tunnel, earth, sand, water, triggered another idea connected to the elements. Some of these already featured in my story, but suddenly, I realised that I could do something extra with this, something I hadn't planned at all.
It seems to me that being a writer is not always about the amount of words written, or getting the job done, although of course, these things are important. It is about being open to all sorts of things, about using what comes to us. We are opportunists and need to take time out from the physical action of writing to be inspired and to experience what is around us, to soak up what exists, sometimes to just be. Because the words in the air will come, and when they do, we need to be ready to reach out and pull them in.
Do you take time to listen to the words in the air?