|Photo by: Marco Ottobelli, Source: Wikimedia Commons|
Freed from the responsibilities of writing, missing writing and wishing I could have the time to do it again, I was suddenly filled with new ideas for stories. I've never felt like much of an idea factory, but it seemed like every day I had some new exciting thought for a character or setting or plot element. They were all thoroughly disconnected, of course, but I was swimming in a rich primordial soup of creative life. It felt like I was on the edge of something new, and I leaned into that with the total freedom of someone who doesn't have to do anything about it yet.
Finally, in December, with the new semester coming and past projects shelved, I realized it was time to channel the next story. I didn't know what it would be, or if any of the myriad ideas I'd been entertaining would play into it, but I knew it was time to start dreaming something larger.
Then I did something weird--something I've never done before. First you have to understand that I'm a total book gobbler. I get audio books through my library, I have several e-books on my phone or printed books on my nightstand (or in my purse--anyone else? Lit. nerds unite!), and at any given time, I am voraciously reading at least one or two of them at every possible opportunity. But in December I decided that if I wanted to receive something new, I needed to get other people's words out of my head. I needed to carve out quiet, empty spaces where my own words and ideas could form. So I decided to fast story.
Yes, fasting. Like a spiritual practice, or a diet. That meant no books, no audio books, not even podcasts. I also took a break from mindless phone games that I sometimes play while listening to an enthralling novel. Instead, I sat with the silence and I waited.
I'm not a saint, and I'm not a liar, so I'll be honest: it was uncomfortable. There were times I cheated with a podcast. But I pressed into my story fast anyway with the kind of dogged faith we creative people have to have, believing that there are stories for me to tell and trying to make my mind and heart open to receiving them. I had a piece of paper on my dresser that I looked at every day that said simply, "Let it come."
One night at the end of December, I lay in my bed, very tired and a little sick after all the holiday hoopla, and it happened. A story began to come into my mind in a series of images, scenes, characters, and plot twists. I could see it all unfolding in front of me. I was a bit bent on getting a good night's sleep, so I actually fought the idea of getting out of bed to write it down for a good ten minutes. But the idea was so vivid that all hopes of sleep had fled, and finally I went out to the dark dining room, sat down at the table, and filled a page in my notebook with lines and lines of small print as I shaped the idea into words.
And I'm excited about this new story. I feel it burning in me, waiting for the chance to move from my mind to the page.
I don't know whether all this is merely coincidental--perhaps it is--but I think there's something true in the idea that our lives are so full of clamor that we miss quieter voices within us that would guide us in transformative ways if only we stopped to hear them. I know that for me, the act of faith precedes the miracle. If inspiration is to find a way in, leaving the door open to her can't hurt.