I wanted my vacation to be focused on leisure, but me being me, I had to slip a couple of projects in there — in particular, working on an outline for The Project. On Tuesday, the day of 40 mile per hour wind gusts and frigid temps, I trekked to the campus library, which was delightfully quiet thanks to intersession. I found a secluded table, took out my legal pad, and began what I thought would be an extensive process.
But as I began, the outline seemed to write itself, like a fully-formed creature just now emerging from the shadows. I was pleased, but confused. This isn’t supposed to be easy, I thought. I had blocked out two full days of time for this, but there I was, nearly done.
The next morning, after the BuzzUp, I holed up at a downtown coffee shop to revisit the outline draft, and it still looked good. I made some additional notes and fleshed some ideas out, but the basic structure remained. It had survived the “sleep on it” test.
That morning, I tweeted: “I love when ideas strike me as if my brain has been quietly nurturing them for months and just now decided to let me in on the secret.” My friend Andrew responded: “Ideas can be like wine: the best of them ferment for months, even years, before emerging as a delicious elixir. Congrats.”
IMing with a writerly friend of mine that evening, I asked, “So is it normal to sit down and in an hour bang out an outline for a book?”
“If you have been thinking about it for TWO YEARS, then yes,” she said. “One should not be concerned with normalcy.”
The brain is a mysterious organ. Could it be that all this time I’ve been hand-wringing over my stasis on The Project that some inaccessible, complex part of my brain has been working through the pieces, waiting for me to finally sit my butt down at a table so it could tap me on the shoulder and say, “Oh, BTW, I’ve got something for you”? It certainly felt like that.
But I know in the end that it’s not magic. I won’t wake up one day to find a manuscript sitting on my desk. It takes writing, revision, writing, revision, revision, revision, writing and revision. Not to mention editing. Perspiration, inspiration, the whole shebang. It takes work. Now, though, at least I have a blueprint.
That said, I suffer no delusions that this outline remotely reflects how The Project will ultimately look. But for now, it provides structure and a direction, which is what I desperately needed. I am energized to move forward with the project, and while I don’t expect lightning to strike twice, I can’t help but wonder what brainstorms might be just beyond the horizon. Perhaps some part of me already knows how the story ends.
Photo by basheertome/Flickr Creative Commons