Got writer's block? I suggest you go for a walk...or maybe not. I'm currently 40 pages into the first draft of my third project--which I may have stumbled upon a title for today--and because of one little walk I now have a fourth. An overactive imagination may be key to a sustainable writing career, but it can also be a burden.
It really came from one little concept that struck me on my walk. Basically, I walked from my house to a little park with cute benches at the mouth of the Niantic River, just beneath the draw bridge, which is a bit of an eyesore. However, if you sit in the park on one of those cute little benches looking out on the river, the view is inspiring. And I mean that literally.
I found myself thinking about the Transcendentalism I teach in my American Lit classes, wondering why if mankind was ruining the beauty of nature, did this view look so much more interesting and spectacular with the little houses smattering the coast and dotting the hills on the horizon, not to mention the fleet of sail boats crowding the docks to my left. Sure the hills and the river would be pretty on their own, but it wouldn't be the same. Think of all those nautical paintings you've seen hanging in seafood joints. They're something special.
Then I pictured the boats and houses just stuck there on concrete or glass or gravel or something. Just plopped down in the picture without the green strokes of the hills or the blue ripples cascading across the river's skin in varying patterns. On their own, left only to the devices of man, they simply aren't spectacular at all. I had an epiphany. As is usual with most arguments, it isn't the artistry of nature or that of mankind alone that provides us with the most perfect look at beauty and inspiration. It's the balance of both.
Think of a beautiful man-made fountain with a cool sculpture without the flowers around it or the water to pour out into the main pool. Not nearly as inspirational--just dry, hard concrete. Bleh.
Then I thought of Boston. Though I love "The Big Apple," there's just something I find more aesthetically inspiring about "Bean Town," and it's not just the legumes. It's that balance of old, historical structures juxtaposed with a new, modern urbanhood that truly makes the city grand. You can gaze upon a rickety old church and graveyard with Paul Revere's dead body rotting six feet beneath your shoes with dilapidated cultural foundations crumbling all around, and if you tilt your head up just a few degrees, you can see a monument of modern economic domination towering above. One if by land, two if by sea, indeed! Lo! They've come by air!
I love these concepts. Everything in moderation is something we all sort of except as true, but what does that really mean. It's not just food, drink, and sex. It takes the old and the new. It takes tradition and impulsiveness. Reality and fantasy. Conservative and liberal. Dogs and cats. You get the point. I often tell my students when there's a passionate argument where both sides are unwilling to budge, it's usually because both sides are wrong...and right. The answer is usually somewhere in the middle, or non-existent.
I want to capture this concept and show it working in the real world--and the imaginary. Think Anne of Green Gables and her Romanticism melding with Marilla's no-nonsense Realism. (Yes, I'm reading that book to my daughter now. What of it?)
Now, it's not just this concept that came to me out there on that hike. An entire plot, all of its twists, all of its characters...title and all, came to me on the half hour walk home from the point that had so inspired me. It wrote itself. It was an epiphany. And that's the title. Even a character's name. I love it when a plan comes together.
Now this blog is about the struggles and triumphs of an unpublished writer, so it wouldn't be right without pointing out that this poses a unique problem. As I said earlier, I'm 40 pages into my third full-length novel that I love oh so much and must, can, and will finish. So where does that leave me? I took a bunch of notes when I got home...on desktop stickies on my laptop. But will that idea still be as fresh and interesting to me in the year or two it takes to finalize this project? Well, let's hope.
If not, I can always go for another walk.