Inspiration and Perspiration

I’ve just returned from the Fantasy Convention in York, and, thankfully, I’m suffering with neither sleep deprivation nor crippling back pain. It was an excellent weekend in all respects: I got to wander round one of England’s most beautiful cities, I caught up with old friends and made some new ones. Highlights of the conference itself included Charlaine Harris, author of the Sookie Stackhouse series, who was warm and funny and down-to-earth, coping with grace when her talk had to compete with Adrian Tchaikovsky sword-fighting in the corridor. The panel on the economics of fantasy worlds and the workshop on world-building were both well worth the pain of a 10am start – which is very early when you’re a writer, especially when you’ve been indulging in the book-launch free wine the night before.

Yesterday, I came home on the train with a brain as bursting with ideas and inspiration as my suitcase was bursting with books. And the best thing of it all is, now I’m a full-time writer, there is no post-con downer: no Monday-morning back in the office, no need to re-adjust my mind to the mundane. I can stay plunged in the magic pool, dream of dragons all day, build castles in the air as much as I like. But I remember Charlaine’s words when asked what advice she would offer young writers (you’ll have to imagine this delivered in a Southern drawl): ‘You just have to close the door, sit your ass down, and get on with it.’ So I’m resisting the temptation to spend my time sketching maps of imaginary lands, and instead I’m getting started on the story, building the world as I go.

You need inspiration before you can start writing a novel, but, however inspired you’re feeling, that book ain’t gonna write itself. Last night I made the decision which project to go for next, created a new Scrivener document with a few chapter headings, and scrawled some ideas in the electronic margin before going to bed. Then this morning, I sat my ass down like Charlaine told me to and bashed out fifteen hundred words before lunch. Not sure yet how good those words are, but hey, I can make them better if I need to. And you know what they say – a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. And then you have to do all the other steps. Or, in writer’s terms, you just have to keep sitting your ass down every day, and bash at the keyboard until you’re done.

The project I’ve decided to work on is The Silvergreen Sea, a fantasy novel about a heavily-forested land facing ecological disaster. I’m not going to say too much more about it, because it will probably mutate as it grows, and could end up as something completely different to what I now have in mind. That’s all part of the fun of being a writer – once you start creating, anything can happen.

One thought on “Inspiration and Perspiration

  1. Kimberley H says:

    Inspiration indeed, Ruth. And as Neil Gaiman says: “If you’re only going to write when you’re inspired, you may be a fairly decent poet, but you will never be a novelist — because you’re going to have to make your word count today, and those words aren’t going to wait for you, whether you’re inspired or not. So you have to write when you’re not “inspired.” … And the weird thing is that six months later, or a year later, you’re going to look back and you’re not going to remember which scenes you wrote when you were inspired and which scenes you wrote because they had to be written.”

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