I find that inspiration is a funny thing. Sometimes it flows like a tap and its a struggle to turn it off enough to engage in normal life – sleep is interrupted, dinner goes un-cooked, kids can scream in the background and you just shout ‘be quiet’ and carry on typing……. Well, kind of.
I love those days, that feeling of flow and purpose. I don’t so much love the chaos that ensues following on from a particularly drawn-out period of inspired productivity.
But then it goes quiet in there. I pick up my pen (or sit at the keyboard) and every sentence I start looks, sounds and feels wrong. I don’t so much get critical of what I am starting to write. I know that some people do and find their thoughts drowned out by the voices:
You are not good enough.
What are you playing at?
Who do you think you are?
But I don’t have that.
That is not because I think everything I write is awesome. I don’t. I put the lack of those voices down to the fact that growing up I was never told I was a good writer and so, as a consequence my ingrained expectations of my writer self are low leaving me with the mindset ‘what have I got to lose’?
So, I accept it as it is. I am what I am. OK at this, could be better but could be so much worse.
The voices in my head are like this:
You can’t write that like that. You should look into it more.
You need to check that fact. Is that even a fact or is that your opinion?
Hang on a minute, have you lost the plot? This story is waffleicious and boring.
or in a similar vein
Do you even know what point you are trying to make AMANDA?
and that pretty much stops it dead.
and it can be dead in there for quite a while….
But then something comes along, usually something un-expected, un-planned and off-centre and suddenly I’m back in the game again.
This week was a good example of that. After a flurry of excitement and ideas after announcing my new book project last week I was hit by a very real feeling of ‘hang on, what exactly am I planning to do and how?’ I guess you could liken this feeling to a hang-over or the feeling that you get when faced with the mess after the party or the cold hard reality of what you have just signed up for.
I had a couple of days where I lost my voice in the reality of it all, couldn’t quite work out what I was trying to achieve and the value that this would bring to both me and anyone reading it.
This thought paralysis was brought on after some feedback I’d received about my plans from a fellow scientist friend of mine who questioned the direction that my research was taking me in.
It did make me think.
But then I stumbled across this TED talk by Chimamamda Ngozi Adichi about stories and more importantly, the danger of a single story.
I realised after listening to this that what I was embarking on was a personal journey or story about my life online and off and how that continues to evolve. That this single story and its prejudices, bias and experience can learn from the stories of others. That together we can form a new patchwork of stories that more closely represent the world and all of its nuanced glory. That my story is just the beginning.
And that is as far as I have got at the moment and I’m happy with that.
If I’ve learned anything about finding inspiration over the last five years of writing it is that it comes at you when you stop looking but only if you really want it.
So the question is this. Do you really want it?
I’m ready to write.