Most of the time, even with careful planning, writing is a journey into the unknown. There is always something you don’t know from the get go, simply because it doesn’t yet occur to you that this is something you might even need.
But then you get to a place in the novel or short-story where you get the feeling that somewhere you are trying to find something but you just don’t know what it is yet. That is when writing can feel a little tedious when you feel like you are rambling in search of this ellusive realisation — maybe it’s a deeper motive, or the real conflict or issue the character is dealing with that makes them the character you have in mind. It starts to feel like a strange absence that isn’t quite noticeable enough to force you to brainstorm it, but that always leaves you feeling a little bit unsatisfied.
And you keep going. What else is there? We always keep going, that’s how it works. Sometimes it takes weeks of this strange, unresolved feeling – journeying through a fog bank that you can’t ever quite penetrate without ever feeling exactly lost.
This is when the perfect writerly moment sets in: the writing epiphany. I am still convinced that this feeling is why we keep doing this – it’s fleeting, incredibly so, but in it’s pure moment it is better than anything else, better than good reviews, better than praise, better than sales.
It starts like this: At some point, you write a sentence or a paragraph. It just comes out of you by force of association or resignation or because you didn’t have your defences up high enough and something real and authentic toppled out. And you stare at that piece you wrote.
Because suddenly, your character is revealing something that sends your mind into a swirl of ideas. And this is not magic or muse, these truths were in the character all this time, you just needed to dig for them until you find them. And then you do, and suddenly everything else unravels.
It’s like you were sitting around a Gordian knot for weeks and suddenly you tug at one little piece and everything just solves itself. Suddenly, everything your character has ever said or felt or done falls into exactly this idea. And you almost can’t believe it, it doesn’t seem possible that something that feels so new and so brilliant should have been basically in this novel from the very beginning. And now you know exactly how the novel ends — and not just the plot that most of us kind of know anyway, but how it is resolved emotionally. We don’t just know what happens but exactly why it happens and we are in love with our writing again.
And also, I might be a wizard:
The sad part is that this never lasts. As I said it’s incredibly fleeting and you forget this almost immediately (which is why I am posting this!).
So you cling to it for as long as you can until you go back to doubting and questioning and brooding 😉 and the next time it happens, it is just as surprising and unexpected as the last.
This post was brought to you with the help of the amazing David Tennant – the handsome man with my absolutely favourite hyperbolic-emotion-face.
(Also, no Doctor like MY Doctor. David is my Doctor.)