May the new year find you expressing yourself to the fullest, creating cities and streets and magic worlds full of life, and penning tales that touch hearts, leave a smile on the reader’s face, and even transform minds when harsh winds blow. Because words matter. Art matters.
One way to repurpose blog content that would otherwise just sit there is to create a Christmas calendar. So that’s what I did. One snippet from here, a quote from there… Since I mostly write about writing, “Musing on Writing” was an obvious theme for me and my cal.
You think characters vanish just because you ditch them from a story you plan to write? They don’t. They continue their travel from one writer to another begging to be heard: What am I to be?
Imagine you sketch an idea for a story on a yellow Post-it about an author who, while giving a presentation on a stage at the city’s Grand Hotel, suddenly sees a lady dressed in red being forcefully removed from the room by a scar-faced man with an ugly grin and taken away. She desperately turns her head to the author and he reads her lips: Help me! Then you sigh in resignation: O-M-G ― and put the Post-it in the drawer, stacked on top of your other Post-its outlining half-hearted ideas, and forget all about it.
Meanwhile, the abandoned author makes it his mission to find the lady in red and begins his journey from author to author. Sometimes he makes a brief appearance in a story, maybe standing on a crime scene looking for her. Sometimes he is brought in for interrogation before he is released and disappears from yet another story.
This is all unbeknownst to you until one fine day, a new book makes the headlines as a debuting author releases a crime novel called Lady in Red. Critics and readers alike are overjoyed: “Sensational!” “A new Mankell!” The novel is about an author who travels all over Europe searching for a lady dressed in red who was forcefully removed from his reading gig at the city’s Grand Hotel by a scar-faced man with an ugly grin. “Lady in red?” you mutter to yourself and a vague memory of a character on a yellow Post-it surfaces.
In Donald Duck magazines, a light bulb flashes up above a character’s head when they get a brilliant idea. Theorists define an aha moment as “an instant at which the solution to a problem becomes clear.” Others of us simply say, “It just popped into my head.”
Aha moments come in all sizes. There are mind-changing moments, for instance when authoritarian leaders reveal their true nature and are stripped naked in front of the TV cameras of the world as people stop cheering them and start wondering, “Whatever did we see in them?”
There are other defining moments that bring people together during natural disasters, or during rescue missions to bring astronauts safely back to Earth or trapped miners back to the surface. These are moments that touch us and show us what we can be.
Most of all, there are people like Mandela and Tutu and King who have educated us with their words and made us better citizens.
Although not close to these proportions, I do have my moments. Take my writing, for example. When an article or a story suddenly falls into place as the last unexpected line leaps out of my fingertips and I know that the story is complete, there is an near-aha-experience. Maybe not of a light bulb magnitude, but I’m delighted and astonished every time it happens and I can’t stop smiling.
What was your most recent aha moment? What sparked it?
you better have a napkin or notebook at hand. It might be the start of something luminous. You never know.
I’d got an enormous pile of exam papers […] and was marking school examinations in the summer time, which was very laborious, and unfortunately also boring. I remember picking up a paper and nearly gave it an extra mark, or extra five marks actually, because one page on this particular paper was left blank. Glorious! Nothing to read. So I scribbled on it, I can’t think why, ‘In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit’.
— J.R.R. Tolkien in an interview with BBC in 1968
My mind ran a million miles an hour and the words tumbled out, as if drunk. I wrote like crazy until I … didn’t.
[…] he began to write now like a madman — as only a madman could write — driven by an insanity of sense and soul and feeling which he no longer could master or control […] The words were wrung out of him in a kind of bloody sweat, they poured out of his finger-tips, spat out of his snarling throat like writhing snakes; he wrote them with his heart, his brain, his sweat, his body; he wrote them with his blood, his spirit; they were wrenched out of the last secret source and substance of his life.
— Thomas Wolfe, “Of Time and the River”
I want to write a poem, but my imagination thwarts me. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe my imagination is inspired by the late winter / early spring, with the yellow spring colors against the wintery white backdrop, and wants to express it but finds me unfocused. You cannot always tell the thwarter from the thwartee.
I think I’ll blame it on my imagination and just sit down with a cup of coffee and watch the hatching spring. Maybe look up the word “thwart” to double-check the meaning. Not the first time, WordPress, that I have to look up your suggested daily word. I try not to let it uh… thwart me.