By nature I tend to be an all or nothing sort of soul. Best to refrain from a glass of wine with dinner, because that may whet the appetite for a bottle. Similarly, I enjoy literature in bursts and spurts – hungrily devouring multiple books and a plethora of genres simultaneously for weeks before overindulgence finally triggers months of abstinence.
However, my one constant had always been my approach to writing. When it came down to the inspiration verses perspiration debate, I was firmly on the side of inspiration. On one occasion when asked about a play I was working on my response was: “It’s 75% written…in my head.”
At this time I naively considered writing exercises as some form of cheating or downright laziness. Instead characters would birth themselves out of the primordial soup of my brain following weeks of daydreaming. When they finally got the opportunity to escape onto paper they would roam free. They evolved, made their own decisions and, if I was particularly well-behaved or lucky, they would allow me to be their silent scribe sidekick, documenting their enthralling journey.
Not only did I have hang-ups on utilising writing techniques but I had this irrational fear. A fear that if I guided characters myself instead of letting the narrative or dialogue flow then I’d be doing a disservice to the character and their spark would be lost.
The quality of my efforts varied, but what began to become apparent was that the pieces which were planned or consciously structured to a greater extent, had a greater chance of success.
So after a long haul I found my writer’s sweet spot between inspiration and perspiration, for the most part.
If you’re battling with this – or renegotiating it because let’s face it, balance constantly shifts and that’s good – then it’s worth considering these kernels of advice from someone who’s been there:
- To be creative you do not need to rely on inspiration alone and perspiration is not cheating. The best results come from a bit of both.
- Edit. Redraft. Edit. Redraft. I’ve not been brave enough to attempt Cheska’s advice yet but her blog from October is well worth a read.
- It’s ok to play god – it’s not big-headed or short-sighted and you are not stifling these wonderful non-existence creatures and worlds you have created. Why? Because the compelling characters and weird worlds you create are…yours.
- But…give your characters enough space to breathe and keep them true to themselves. Character arcs are great and predictability can kill a story. Nonetheless be wary of shoehorning a character into a situation that doesn’t feel natural for them – even if it would give the chance for that plot development you’ve been desperate to squeeze in.