Perhaps only other artists really understand what happens when inspiration strikes. When there's an idea running around in your head and suddenly it lights up like one of those light bulbs cartoon characters have over their heads, shedding some kind of mystical force into your brain.
Then, the art just needs to spill out. With writers, it's words. When the time comes, the demand to write becomes overwhelming to the detriment of all else.
Daily chores become a monumental annoyance. Having to wash the dishes, tidy up the house, or even go to the market for food is torment. The blank paper or computer screen in front of you demands attention. It needs words--your words--filling it, page by page. All other activities fall by the wayside. Writing demands all your time and attention. Heaven forbid that the phone should ring or someone knock on the door. Hospitality and polite greetings would be just too much of a nuisance.
Fortunately for most writers, this doesn't happen every day. If writing were that simple, we'd all be turning out a novel a week. Instead, bursts of obsessive creativity usually strike with random unpredictability. Here one day, gone the next.
Worse, if they go unfulfilled for too long, they might even vanish of their own accord.
It happened to me yesterday. I'd written over five thousand words the day before and was really on a role with my novel's plot. Characters were taking over and the story was making its own demands. I finally finished a chapter and, bleary-eyed, made my way to bed, my brain still churning with words for tomorrow.
I slept well and rose with that nagging desire to write tickling my keyboard fingers.
But there were tasks to complete first. I have three horses in my backyard stable. No matter how inspired I might be, they needed breakfast and their stalls--since it had rained the day before--needed a good cleaning. My cats needed breakfast too and their litter boxes needed tending.
And then, there was the sunshine. It was a gorgeous low humidity summer day, exactly the one I'd been waiting for to do some much needed mowing in the horses' paddocks. (Fenced in areas.) The weeds mocked me, and the mower batter was all charged and ready for an easy start. Of course, I had to pump up one of the tires first, and fill the tank with gas--all time-adding tasks. Then, despite my initial plan to "just do a little mowing around the barn," I ended up spending nearly two hours, nearly as obsessive about cutting down the weeds as I had been about the book.
Perhaps that says something about writers? Do we obsess about everything?
By the time I was done, the sun had warmed everything, including me, so I headed for the swimming pool and there found myself doing at least five more laps than I'd planned. That left me just at the right time to head to the CSA to pick up my weekly basket of veggies. A quick stop at the supermarket on the way home to get sour cream for some squash pancakes and I alit at my doorstep close to dinnertime for the horses.
Once again, my keyboard sat silent and by the time I sat down again to write, the passion that had consumed me the day before and in the morning had faded. I had to re-read everything I had written the day before to remember exactly where my plot needed to go, and what my characters needed to do and say.
So it's back to the slower slog where words come at a snail's pace in comparison. I have to think through each scene, actively deciding where and how it needs to go. The "muse of fire" is on flicker instead of full flame.
It isn't exactly the writer's block some authors claim, it's more of a muddy pool to cross in the fast flowing river of inspiration.
I'm sure I'll ride the rapids again soon, but for now, writing really is work. Still fun, but definitely work.