(And just in case you are wondering, I am not pregnant.)
“I’ve got a story coming on.”
This is what I generally say when Husband asks me why I’m being so grumpy and uncommunicative. Its the time when I am lost in ideas, fermenting, cogitating, incubating.
This is sometimes not an easy time for the person or people who share your life. They may feel like you are being deliberately distant. Its always worth explaining that you still love them and want to be with them. If you have to go away inside your head, it is because your Muse is kidnapping your brain. Reassure those you love that you will be back with them soon, and its nothing personal.
This is also a time to be compassionate towards yourself. If you are absorbed in your new project, you may have new ideas flooding your skull every which way. It can be exhilarating, but it can also be exhausting. Remember to take a breather if you can. It will help the details to accumulate in your head in the meantime.
If you are suffering from the ideas overload that sometimes comes with a new project, when you are overwhelmed with all the brilliant concepts for other things you could be doing as well, write them down. Write everything down. You can always come back to them, but at least you will have a record of them when the deluge ends and the drought sets in.
You might be so excited by your new idea that you want to get started right away, like, yesterday. Well, maybe. But don’t jump the gun. Give yourself some time to think things through. Make lots of notes – this is what your writing notebook (or journal or sketchbook) is for.
Be thorough. Take notes verbatim from your Muse. Don’t rest on your laurels at 3am and convince yourself that you are going to remember that brilliant flash of inspiration, because chances are, come breakfast time, the little sucker will have sneaked off into infinity, and you will spend the next week banging your head against the wall, trying to remember exactly what it was that was so bloody good that you thought you’d undoubtedly remember it. (This is especially important as you get older, believe me, so its a good habit to start NOW.)
It can be worth exploring around your idea too, digging around in the associated issues, examining messages linked to what your story or painting will say. But don’t get side-tracked by research at this stage. This is a pit with spikes at the bottom, and I for one always seem to end up falling into it. The problem with the pit of spikes (research) is that:
a) You can lose touch with the original idea and its uniqueness to you. I was once on a writing course with a man who was fascinated by the concept of how ‘shell shock’ was dealt with in the First World War. He had done so much research into it that there wasn’t a thing he didn’t know. The trouble was that all the research had led him to the conclusion that the novel he had to write was pretty much a re-run of Pat Barker’s peerless ‘Restoration’, and why rewrite a novel that has already been written far better than you ever could?
b) You can get side-tracked BIG TIME. I got so lost in researching my first novel, which was set in the Iron Age, that it took me seven years to write the first draft. By the end, I was so exhausted, I couldn’t face editing it, so I gave up, and it now sits in a folder on the shelf, seven years of work gathering dust.
Allow your idea to emerge without influence, or at least without any influence that isn’t already within you.
One final tip I would add is: don’t share yet. Not even with your Significant Other. Give yourself time to polish the corners off and get things into some semblance of order. Honour yourself and your project with private time, in utero, so to speak. No one else can share the link between a mother and her baby while it is in the womb, no matter how much tummy rubbing and singing to the bump takes place. You are feeding your project baby through an umbilical cord that runs solely between you and it. Take as much time as you need to nourish and birth it. You will know when is the right time to bring your baby out into the light.