Fall into My Head

As the story goes, the concept for Harry Potter simply fell into J.K. Rowling’s head when she was at a train station. All it took was the thought of a young male character with glasses, and all the complexities developed out of that small starting point. Obviously we are not all destined to find literary or artistic success akin to Rowling’s, but I love that ideas do, in fact, simply fall into one’s head.

I read this excerpt from Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft on this blogger’s site, and it reminded me of how I’ve always found the origin of Harry Potter refreshing to think about:

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

This condemnation sat poorly with me. I don’t know exactly what Stephen King is trying to convey, as I have not read the book, but for now I am just going to react to the language of the quote. I cannot relate to his point. Perhaps what he means is that, if you want to be a writer, you have to at least practice…maybe find some sort of beneficial habit or routine that keeps you proactively pushing forward in your skill. Sounds like advice that oodles of people give to hopeful writers, and I suppose it often works.

But routines do not work for my brain. “Get up and go to work” does not work for my brain. My brain does not agree to “work” at writing just because I tell it to write or to get into some sort of habit. If I have expectations or deadlines–if I am working under pressure–then sure, my brain will hold up fine and punch something out. I made it through college with two bachelor of arts degrees. But regarding the writing that I do on my own time, I’m gentle with my brain. I don’t want to yell, “Work, brain! Work, goddammit!” If I do, then my brain will just want to shut down. And then that’s it. Goodbye, brain.

This, for me, is a part of bipolar disorder. My brain is organized in a very messy way. I am chemically imbalanced, so I do not have control over my brain’s creative workflow. When my brain doesn’t want to work, I can’t do anything about it except wait for it to feel alive again. If my brain is frozen, if it is a paralyzed block of ice, then I have to wait until the ice starts melting and fluidity returns.

This can be frustrating, when people are constantly saying that you have to establish some sort of writing routine in order to grow. I’m sorry, but I’m not going to establish anything for myself. I’m going to be conscious of my brain chemistry, and I’m going to be gentle with myself so that I don’t self-destruct.

So yes, I wait patiently for ideas to fall into my head. Not only that, I wait for the full stories to fall into my head as well. When it comes to stories, I live by my senses, so I wait for all the images and emotions to fall delicately from the sky like snowflakes. I wait for them to refresh me the same way snowflakes feel refreshing when they gently hit your face. Those are the stories that are exciting. Those are the stories that you actually want to write.

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