There’s a magical thing that happens sometimes with any creative process. I had characters and a setting and a vague idea of what they might be up to, and I let it percolate in my head for around a year. Simmering there, in my subconscious and memories and neurological coding, and then all of a sudden…it just came pouring out.
Suddenly I knew who my main characters are, and how they connect, and their backstories. I’m not entirely sure what they’re up to yet, but I know what draws them together, and what draws them to their particular setting.
This is what I think of as the exploratory phase of writing.
Ancient writers would have credited the muses.
As a writer, I’ve often said I understood the ancient poets who invoked the muses at the beginning of their epics. Sometimes it really does feel like these ideas come out of nowhere – I wasn’t consciously thinking about what this story would be at the point in time that it suddenly jumped out of my brain and started screaming for attention.
And then you wonder, is this some sort of chemical reaction in my brain, some neuroelectrical signal that fired just the right way and smashed together memory, experience, and subconscious thoughts in just the right combination? Or is there a muse hovering somewhere, just out of my line of sight?
Is Melpomene whispering tragedies in my ear?
I usually give way to scientific reasoning over magical thinking. But the literary part of me enjoys the idea of the Muses, and the idea of creativity being something divinely inspired. And I’ve had the creative equivalent of ghost sightings – something suddenly comes together in your mind, and you can’t understand where it came from or why. Has anyone else had that? The moment where something just hits you all of a sudden? An insight about a character, a story idea that seems to form out of nowhere?
It always leaves me wondering…HOW DO THESE MOMENTS OF ARTISITC CLARITY HAPPEN? Is this just a swirling cauldron of memories and ideas and neurological processes? What did I think, read, experience, that led me to this sudden moment of clarification? What neurons were firing? What chemicals achieved just the right balance? What was happening in the unconscious parts of my mind?
Or did a Muse take notice…?