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Friday, August 23, 2013

Writerly Inspirations

[I used Grammarly to grammar check this post, because it's easier to second guess all my commas and subjunctives after someone else points them out. And seriously, I've been doing so much revision lately I am pretty sure that EVERYTHING I write is wrong.*]

It can be as simple as a song lyric, half-heard while I’m shopping, or as complex as a movie, or the study of mythology on the whole. The things that inspire me as a writer are the things that make me ask questions, or ask questions of me that start the wheels turning in the back of my mind.

What if all the gods were real? What if your big sister was a goddess of love and didn’t know it? What if Europa knew exactly what she was doing when she climbed up on the back of that bull? What *is* it like to sail across the surface of the sun? (Train’s Drops of Jupiter is seriously the most amazing song – I could listen to it on repeat for hours, and it never stops making me want to write things!) What if there were empaths? What if Ragnarok *already* came? What is it like to date someone whose entire family is one big secret society?

After I know what the question is, and I’m writing the story that goes with it, if I’m really stuck, I’ll go for a walk, or hop in the shower, or do *anything* that doesn’t require a lot of focus but puts me in a position where I don’t have anything to write on (that’s always how it is, isn’t it?).

Sometimes I’ll chat up my characters: ask Adam what he hoped to accomplish by… well, that would be telling. I’ll talk to Thor about some piece of mythology/saga/Edda/history that’s tripping me up, and see what his perspective would be. Just getting out of my own head sometimes gives me what I need to move forward.

But for me, writing isn’t just about inspiration. It isn’t about waiting for the muse to show up and tell me what comes next. For me, writing is just as much discipline as it is creativity, and I don’t believe in writer’s block. I believe in sitting down and writing – and if I’m not sure what’s happening next in one story, I work on another until I can go back to it. Day to day, when I’m hip deep in a manuscript, all I really need is a good night’s sleep to keep going. Sometimes I’m too caught up in the story even for that much, and after writing too late into the night, I wake up too early, eager and anxious to get to the next part.

Because when I’m writing, really in the zone, learning what happens next is its own inspiration.

And man, when you hit that point – when the story is telling itself as much as you’re writing it – it makes all the other frustrations disappear. It makes all the waiting and worrying and taking books apart and putting them back together again worth it. And you realize that Tolkien was right – writing really is close to divine.

*This post is being sponsored by Grammarly, which honestly is not terrible as an "extra set of eyes," and is, full disclosure, offering me an amazon gift card for my troubles. The program did try to tell me I used the wrong to/too/two when I clearly did not, which is kind of disappointing, but it was in a "this is a commonly confused word" way rather than a "this is wrong" way.  

When using it for works of fiction, it flags a lot of pronoun usage that isn't wrong (if there's more than one pronoun in the sentence, I think, mostly, or if the pronoun is modifying another noun in the sentence) and also tried to tell me that "silence of the room" should be "silence with the room" (what?). The bigger problem though, is that it has a 20 page limit, so you have to break things down into chunks for it to analyze, which is annoying. But the thing I like about the program itself is that it teaches you the grammar as it goes through your "errors" so you can decide yourself if the program is misapplying the rule or not. 

I realized the other day while proofing one of my manuscripts that a lot of what I know and how I write is kind of "by ear." I don't know WHY I think it's right, but I know it is. (As the daughter of an English teacher, I should probably be ashamed of myself, but that's how it is. I didn't learn grammar until I took Latin.) So Grammarly's little lessons inside the explanation bubbles are pretty handy for me. I'm not sure I'm going to shell out for a subscription beyond the trial period, but, I'm enjoying playing with it for the time being.

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