The Despair of Inspiration
You may be shocked to learn that I haven’t started yet another new project this week. Got far too many of those “new projects” to be getting on with. But I thought I’d go back to the old gem – inspiration.
Obviously, for a writer, this is a good thing, right?
Well, the title of this post may tell you a slightly different opinion.
I recently started reading Her Fearful Symmetry
by Audrey Niffenegger. And what gets me most about this book is how easily it flows. Flow is something that I’m obsessed with. If you’re a “stutter” kind of writer like me (may work intensively on something for a few weeks, then fade out, or work on something else, and come back to it) then it can be difficult to maintain a flow. I’ve been asking myself “If I can’t get into an easy flow in writing something, then how are people going to be able to get into an easy flow when reading it?” It’s a good question. Sometimes you can fake it. I’ve done that by intensively working on smaller sections and fitting them together, smoothing over the seams, building a novel like you would build a wall. At the end of it, hopefully, you have a nice, structured construct that is solid and sturdy.
Lets leave the metaphors for now though, I’m not House. I have read a lot of books that – no offence to the writers – feel like this. Like I’m reading a wall. Its not to say that they’re hard to read, or that they don’t flow, but more that they’re very solid pieces of work, and while it isn’t a slog to get through them, I can quite happily read a chapter, then put it down to pick it back up later.
Going with the Flow
So onto …Symmetry. I’ve been reading this and it is one of those rare books that flows so easily that I get swept up in it, like I’m floating down a river. It flows so easily that I feel like I’m hardly reading at all, I’m being moved through the story using its own power. I’m not saying all this in an effort to Kiss Niffenegger’s ass, but it almost feels like I’m being revitalised by this book.
I’ll explain. When I read I like to alternate fiction and non-fiction. Obviously, the non-fiction I read tends to be a lot of hardcore science, or social theory, which is all information overload, and takes me a while to trek through it. Once I’m done, I can be a bit exhausted from reading, so I turn to fiction, which I find much easier. It’s a way of taking a break from the heavy stuff. And sometimes I come across a book which, like …Symmetry flows so easily that it recharges my batteries, and it is also an inspiration. It reignites my spark, and drives me into the mindset to write.
So why do I call it despair? Well, quite simply because – more so these days than when I was at university – writing doesn’t come that easily to me. I still have floods of ideas, but getting them down is harder for me. And while I am well aware that no book is easy to get written, no matter how easily it flows, it can put me in a bit of a downer when I read something so… light.
Because that’s not the kind of writer I am. I don’t write stuff that sweeps you up in the flow. I tend to write things that are elaborate, with multiple storylines going on, and leaping back and fourth chronologically. I write stuff that’s heavy (not necessarily in terms of subject matter, but in terms of flow) it’s similar to the difference between hard water and soft water. Swimming in soft water is much easier than swimming in hard water. And I feel like reading (and also writing) is the same.
So this is where the despair came in. Because I know I don’t – and probably never could – write something that flows as easily as …Symmetry. And I’ll admit, I’m a little envious. It isn’t however, making me not want to write. As I mentioned earlier, it has sparked that fire of passion within me again (however briefly) and while I despair that I don’t write with that easy flow, I do write, and I like to think I’m good at it – with what I do anyway – and that is what has inspired me.
I’ll cut it here, before I drown under any more metaphor…