“Each of us have moments when we are swept away by an inner sense of excitement about something we are doing or want to do. In this state, whatever we are working on seems to come alive with significance and even necessity, and our contribution seems to validate who we are or, perhaps more accurately, who we can be.”
Martha Graham, dancer and choreographer
Say you have a truly perfect day.
Your art sings with such passionate ease you feel it flowing with your breath. Time becomes a measurement applied to mere mortals. You become genuinely united with the creative moment. The heavens open, the angels descend, and they sing with you. It is, in a word, glorious.
Then there is the next day.
Because you have returned to the mortal realm, your first temptation is to review the previous day’s work. But let’s be perfectly honest here. You’re not doing this because you actually want to change anything.
You’re after a cheap high.
You want to feel that same incredible union, without the blood and sweat and tears.
But then you realize that the product of your intense experience is not quite perfect. What you created has a flaw. You pluck at this tiny imperfect strand, and gradually all the glorious emotional impact fades away.
And you doubt it ever happened. You become tempted to dismiss the entire experience as a passing illusion.
There is a scene in my upcoming release, Miramar Bay, where scene when Connor goes racing off on his motorcycle in the dark with the headlights off. How I happened to write it goes like this:
I was at the end of a very long day. Tired, strung out, a lot going on, and I was running away from two half-finished scenes that I simply could not get right. So I went to the gym. And there in the middle of my workout, Connor talked to me.
It was just so incredible, hearing this guy confess his deepest secret. I felt so moved. I borrowed a pen and pad from the gym’s manager and scribbled out the entire scene, like I was listening to Connor confess. Broken, afraid, totally uncertain as to what he should do next. But it was this moment that propelled him to do what he did. Take the midnight bus to Miramar Bay.
Connor raced bikes. His own ride of choice was the fastest street-legal bike in the world, a Ducatti. And while Connor had been rising up the impossible glass mountain of LA fame, his escape had been rides through desert hideaways with outlaw buddies.
But that night Connor had been alone.
He pushed his bike up the desert cliffs north of Palm Springs, one switchback after another, and did so with his lights off. The motor screaming, his blood pumping, illuminated by the moon. Why?
Because he did not care whether he lived or he died.
That was the confession he shared with me. I wrote it down, and when I was finished, I felt as though I had been given an incredible gift by a guy who was a lot better, and far greater, than he gave himself credit for.
Welcome to Miramar Bay.
So why am I sharing this with you?
Because of the next day.
When I sat down at my desk, I faced the same quandary as I had before I left for the gym. The same two unfinished scenes. The same imperfect structure that I had to get right. The same doubts, the same fears, the same…
Do This Now:
- The issue here is not inviting the next moment of unbridled inspiration. The key element, the crux to arriving at the point when inspiration happens, is this: Work through the hours of drudgery.
- You need to fashion a means of maintaining this discipline when the hour is hardest. Not when it comes easy. You must do this. You must.
- For myself, the answer has come through not allowing myself to reread what I have written until the first draft is completed. I want to go back. I hunger to see what I am creating. But I don’t give in. I can’t, and maintain my daily productivity, my drive.
- You must design your own method for making it through the slog. I suggest you start with my concept, and hold to it until you fashion your own.
- Whatever it is, however you make this work, consider this one of the most vital steps you will take as an artist.
Davis Bunn’s next novel MIRAMAR BAY comes out March 28th 2017. Don’t forget to order your copy today!