Monday Blog – More Pain
I have a friend who, right now, is lacking inspiration. She has drive and she has ambition but lacks the spark that gets you started.
I think I went over this before but when the idea for my first book hit me, six months or so later it was written. I jammed writing into the nooks and crannies of my life and while I had great support (which I’ll write about later on), I had a spark that go things moving. I thought I had a good idea and I sprinted to execute that idea before the inevitable come down happened or the passion that fueled the idea cooled.
But thinking on inspiration, I think those “Eureka” moments don’t happen very often. Sometimes you have pieces of things, sometimes you have a drive to create and sometimes you just have to start going and see what happens. That’s the situation I currently find myself in and it’s changing the way I’m thinking about inspiration in general. I’m a discovery writer (meaning I make it up as I go instead of steadfastly planning it out) and I’ve found that no matter how much you guard against writing a Mary or Gary Sue into your story, inspiration is directly tied to who you are and what you’ve experienced. To put it another way, inspiration happens differently to every person and is a direct result of your brain, your drive, your sense of the world and your experiences.
It’s the last item on that list I want to focus on for a second. Like everyone on the planet I have rough times and I find those rough times in my life bleeding through into my writing. I want to draw a line between letting your experiences influence you and creating a Mary Sue. In one case, you are dumping your baggage into a character and, on some level, fulfilling your desires through fiction. What I’m talking about is taking those things that have shaped and are shaping your life and drawing inspiration from them. Which brings us to Bobcat Goldthwait.
If you only know the comic Bobcat Godthwait as the snarling dunderhead from the Police Academy movies, you might want to give him a second look. The dude is a first class independent filmmaker, a smart technician and a bad ass who doesn’t shy away from any topic. If you’re of strong constitution, you might check out “World’s Greatest Dad” which mines the rich well of teen suicide for laughs. I legitimately love his Bigfoot movie “Willow Creek”.
On an episode of The Nerdist podcast from August of this year, Goldthwait talks about a ritual he and his friends partake in every New Years. They would go into the ocean and tell the Universe what they wanted for the upcoming year. After years of thinking this ritual was granola cruncher nonsense, Bobcat had a year where his wife left him, his best friend died and he worked almost exclusively on a documentary about the rape of his friend as a child. You can find the podcast here and listen to 57:40 to hear the part in question.
Instead of asking for snow tires, like previous years, Goldthwait asked for “more pain.” He says in the podcast he wanted more pain because the idea of a year worse than the one he had just suffered through was somehow comforting to him but the idea of asking for “more pain” hit me as both unbelievably brave (the universe is the undisputed champion at dishing out pain) and as sort of a committed and powerful request for inspiration or experience. Yes, your wife might leave you, but if writing is your outlet and the thing that you do, I bet your writing looks different during the year that happens and the year after that. Yes, tragedy may befall you but what are you going to take from that? If you’re a writer, you’re going to have a powerful new arrow in your quiver.
Of course, you don’t have to be a masochist (or much of one) to be a writer and by wishing for “more pain” I am not, actually, wishing for more pain. What I’m wishing for are those experiences that spark your brain, that change your writing, that make you better on the page even if it’s not the path you’d have necessarily chosen for your life. Think of parenthood as the easiest example. You will never be higher, you will never doubt yourself more and your view of the world will fundamentally change and you can be damn sure you’re writing will change.
Pain equals experience. Experience can mean more inspiration. More pain? Couldn’t hurt.