Saturday, March 18, 2017

What Inspires Me?

Usually I don't write on Saturdays; weekends are for my family. After all, my husband doesn't operate on Saturdays, unless he's on call and there's some kind of horrible crisis (punched drunk, firework to the eye, and a nasty incident involving a potato chip bag come to mind). However this is not a typical Saturday--I'm at the beach, the weather's looking dreary, and the boys are golfing early in order to be home in time for Notre Dame's basketball game, which starts at noon. I slept in a bit--not much--finished the latest book I'm reading--I'm on a Maisie Dobbs craze, I think I just finished #9--I have #10 right here with me, though, with the miracle of Kindle, books are never far away--and I'm sitting here at my computer staring at the mess that was yesterday's work, and contemplating the mess I might create today.

When I do classroom visits, one of the first questions children ask me is, "What inspired you to write--whatever book?" I have come to really dislike this question. First of all, I suspect it's a good-student question, ie., not what the children most want to know, but what they think sounds good to their teacher. "Ah, good question!" the teacher thinks, and smiles approvingly. Second, by the time we get to audience questions I've usually told them all about what inspired whatever book we're discussing, and now I've got to say it over again, only more precisely. But mostly this question irritates me because I. Am. Never. Inspired.

Okay. Once in awhile. Once in a very, very great while. Jamie's cat Bovril, for example--he showed up in a dream, and so did the sidesaddle, and both of those were answers to problems I didn't consciously know my novel had--but I will submit that I knew them unconsciously, and that's why I dreamed solutions.

Writing a novel is like putting together a puzzle whose pieces keep changing. I don't think it all up in a white heat of glorious creative passion. I work it out, page by page, day by day. Writing is my job. It's my work, and it is work. I love it; I'm grateful every day that I get to do this with my life. But I'm not inspired. I'm working. On a day like today, when I've got a mess of seven pages staring at me, this is very good news. I don't need to fix them. I just need to keep working.