Today, I want to share a guest post I once penned for The Speculative Salon blog.
I’m so excited to be today’s guest blogger at The Speculative Salon! To be honest, I’m also a bit frightened. There’s pressure enough in just being invited to write for someone else’s audience, but when you’re doing so for a site run by a half-dozen accomplished authors (and those are only the ones I know about! For crying out loud … there could be dozens of ‘em … hundreds even!), that pressure gets cranked up exponentially.
Basically, I’m left with two choices: I can challenge myself to come up with something worthy of the honor bestowed upon me (or at least put forth a valiant effort), or I can throw in the towel and mail in some half-assed piece of drivel.
Which choice did I make?
I’ll let you decide.
So here goes …
I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t have a bunch of guest blog ideas stored away somewhere. In fact, I don’t even have one spare idea shoved under the mattress for emergencies. Every guest blog I write is developed around an idea that comes up for that specific occasion.
There’s no rhyme or reason as to where an idea comes from … or when it comes … or even what it’s about. Believe me, I’m just happy that they come at all.
It doesn’t mean I don’t have a system. Of course I do. Where would we be—as individuals or even as people—without systems? I shudder to think of it.
But, seriously, my system is pretty simple (and, if you’ve read some of my earlier posts along this Blog Tour, you already know it. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean you can go to the front of the line. This is not a progressive environment; it’s all-for-one and one-for-all, so you have to wait for the rest of us). Once I’m committed to a guest blog, I spend as much time as possible doing research on the blog itself—reading through months and months of blog posts and comments, trying to get an overall “feel” for the site. All the while, I’m letting everything sort of percolate through the gray matter (what little I have, that is), hoping and praying that something ignites that spark of inspiration I so desperately need … because we all know that inspiration can’t be forced, right?
It’s been scientifically proven, in fact. Inspiration cannot be forced. Like e=mc2, it’s one of the few immutable laws of nature. If you don’t believe me, just try it for yourself.
Trying to force inspiration is kinda like forcing yourself into clothes that used to fit a few years ago. You can huff and puff and twist and shout all you want, but you’re going to be unsuccessful and all you’ll get for your efforts is sweaty, uncomfortable, and breathless.
So, if full blown inspiration doesn’t strike like a bolt of lightning, the best you can hope is to find a tiny thread of inspiration (or “thinspiration”) and gently coax it along—inching it ever so closer, little by little—until it’s finally within range and you pounce on it, wrapping your meaty paws around it and squeezing it so it can’t slither away. I’m sure there’s a hunting metaphor in there somewhere, but I’m too tired to think of one.
Have you ever tried to rescue the string that’s lost in the waistband of a pair of sweatpants? It’s just like that, only mental. And more difficult.
Well, to get back on track: while doing research for this blog, I’m ashamed to admit that full-blown inspiration didn’t strike. Nevertheless, I couldn’t give up. These blogs don’t write themselves, after all.
So, I went back and forth, trolling all over The Speculative Salon site (figuratively, of course. I can’t even imagine what kind of literal mess a person could make by trolling anything) and banging my head against the wall in a semi-rhythmic pattern that was both painful and comforting.
Perhaps it was desperation. Perhaps it was a slight concussion. I’ll never know without an MRI or at least a WebMD search, but suddenly something did strike me. It might not have been inspiration, but I was in no condition to argue. The answer had been right in front of my face the entire time.
And there’s a message in there. When all else fails, and you’re completely in the dark and lost … open your eyes before you begin abusing yourself and/or screaming incoherently. You might be surprised by what you see. At the very least, you’ll be in a better position to fight off the burly guys trying to put the straightjacket on.
But anyway—public service announcement aside—the answer to my problem was in the blog’s title: The Speculative Salon.
I’m not much of a salon guy … but I can damn well ‘speculate with the best of ‘em—or, at least, those in the lower percentiles. (Oh, I know the apostrophe has no business being in ‘speculate, but it looks like it belongs, doesn’t it?)
So, let’s quit wastin’ time and ‘speculate …
Everyone knows that the pen is mightier than the sword and all that jive … but I often wonder (wonder being an accepted synonym of speculate, of course) about the unintended effect writers have on the world around them—in particular, on their world.
Think about it.
Where do you suppose unused ideas actually go? What about rejected ones? Do they just quietly drift away, never to be seen again? Or do they, perhaps, skulk away, rejected and dejected, to find a dark place where they hole up, quietly stew, and slowly, ever so slowly, morph from little damaged ideas into big ill-formed concepts just waiting for an opportunity to burst from concealment and exact long-awaited revenge?
What about the things I edit out along the way? A word here, a few lines there, here a paragraph, there a chapter, everywhere a page page—just wielding that delete button like an uncaring deity with the power of life or death at my fingertips. (The power is intoxicating and I don’t even want to think about the psychological damage I’m doing to myself.) Conversely, what happens to the things that remain—those that make it to the finished product? Does the constant culling irreparably scar them? Do they suffer from survivor guilt? Will they be forever unable to form lasting, healthy relationships? Does that make my stories nothing more than hollow entities going through the motions? How will I ever know for sure?
Well, I’m going to stop there, because a good writer knows where to start, but a great writer always knows when to stop.
And, honestly, I’m scaring the hell out of myself with all this ‘speculatin’.
Do you see how the word is bracketed in apostrophes? I did that.
I did that.
And how cool is that?