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Monday, July 21, 2008

Being Open

One of the things I've learned along this great, grand journey of being an artist is to be open. Open to opportunities and possibilities, and especially to new ideas. So often an idea will pop into our brain and we'll dismiss it as stupid or impossible. This, I've learned, is a mistake. It could be that that idea is the thing that will get us off our over-beaten path and into new territory.
Now, sometimes that new path is a dead end. But I think it's better to take the detour than to continue down our familiar path, always looking over our shoulder and wondering what might have been if we'd gone a different way.
I'm dealing with this right now. I've been working on a YA novel set in 16th century Italy, with a supernatural twist. Although I love the premise and the characters and have the whole novel plotted out, something is just not hooking in for me. I've tried a number of things to break out of this rut but nothing seems to really work. It's very frustrating.
Over the weekend a sudden idea popped into my head. What if this story isn't meant to be set in the 16th century? What if this isn't an historical novel? What if this story is meant to be told in the here and now?
Needless to say, as a self-proclaimed writer of historical fiction who loves and relishes history, this was a pretty radical and scary thought. My first instinct was to sweep this thought under the rug and stomp on it, hard.
But instead I swept all of the "what a stupid idea" thoughts under the rug and stomped on them. Hard.
As a writer, my first responsibility is to tell the story. If there's a chance that this story needs to be told in contemporary times, then I need to explore that.
So this morning when I should have been settling in to write, I got up, futzed around, did the laundry, made some coffee, watched Gilmore Girls on ABC Family, and generally avoided going down this new path. But as I did these empty chores, sentences drifted in and out of my head until one hooked in. The first sentence. I sat down at the computer. And an hour and a half later, I had the first scene.
I don't know if this is the right path for this story yet. But I'm open to going down it for as long as it takes for me to find out. I'm here to serve the story, and sometimes that means putting on a good pair of hiking shoes, tucking a water bottle into your backpack, and following the trail all the way to the sea.
What wild ideas have you had and followed? Are there any ideas you've had that you didn't follow through on and wish you had? And if you're in the midst of following a wild idea right now, please share so I don't feel all alone!


Julie O'Connell said...

Nicole, oh my're never alone! Ideas are my weakest point when it comes to writing (though those that have read my work might disagree *g*), so I follow or write down every one, no matter how dorky they seem to me. The wild idea that I want to follow is the Arizona story loosely based on my grandmother's life in the early 1900's. I will write it someday, but I'm not sure when. The wild idea I'm following now is trying to persuade an agent that they love me and can't live without me. :-)

BTW, your new twist sounds fabulous! Follow that path as far as you can go, then push on some more. I'll bring trail mix.

Excellent post - a great subject for all of us.

Ginger Calem said...

Oooh, following a wild path. Sounds like in addition to the hiking boots, water bottle and backpack...this situation calls for our big-girl-panties! :)

I can't wait to see where this path leads you, Nicole.

As for me and my unchartered paths, so to speak. I have this idea of a story that takes place in this deserted, very haunted-looking, house on a lake in TN. It's a double timeline sort of story, which is daunting to me but the essence of what this story feels like is very strong to me. I hope I have the courage and talent to give it credit someday.

I can't wait to hear of everyone else's wild treks into unchartered adventures!