So I had this moment just today, just around five minutes ago, when I had a realization. It wasn’t sudden, it was as if it were an acknowledgement of a fact that I had known all along, but hadn’t known that I had known.
It’s regarding a problem that I discussed previously, in this post. You might remember the difficulty of the anaemic, neglected, underdeveloped, and worst of all, boring female lead. Well, I was actually researching something for a different blog post… you might get to see it at some point in the not-so-distant future. I had been researching it for around a week or so; I had hoped to have it wrapped in a couple of days, but it had turned out to be a much more complicated (and fascinating) topic than I had realized. So I was thinking about it while I was outside on the cement stoop of my apartment building, smoking a cigarette, and I had the casual thought that this was, after all, the entire motivation for the female lead as well as the place where her goals and the male lead’s goals intersect.
That was it. No epiphany, nor feeling of joy or exhilaration that I’ve heard other writers talk about upon having reached a breakthrough in fiction-related problem solving. In fact, if I hadn’t spent weeks puzzling over the character problem, I might have missed the import of that one stray thought. And when I caught it, there was no gasp or widening of the eyes; in fact all I could do was laugh at myself. There, on the stoop, by myself, shaking my head and laughing at myself.
When you consider how important this kind of a discovery really is… I mean, this is the information that doesn’t just make the female lead a stronger, more interesting character, but it is a very important facet of the thing that drives the collaboration of the two main characters and thus the entire story. I mean, let’s face it; with two people at the heart of a story, they either collaborate toward a common goal, or collaborate on your conflict, unwitting though they may be. Sometimes both. So without this realization, the novel would have languished in an unfinished state, possibly indefinitely.
It’s a joyous discovery for that reason, and because it reinforces something that I have realized many times before in my life, and probably will many times over again as this little life rolls on. This is the fact that some problems, like a sore that will not heal, only need respite from being picked at to resolve themselves. You can push your seat away from the table and attend to other matters, and your brain will still chew away at the issue while you are otherwise occupied. One day, like the ding of a timer on a toaster oven, your brain will have a way to let you know that it’s finished its work. Like providing you with a not-so-coincidental inspiration for a post to the blog that you guiltily maintain to make up for the fact that you aren’t getting much of anywhere with your novel.
Sometimes inactivity isn’t sloth. Sometimes it’s just rest. This is a difficult thing for me to cope with; unproductive hours to me seem like a waste of a life that’s already too short. There are so many things to be done, and I find myself inventing tasks sometimes to fill the spaces left by the breaks that I take from highly prioritized goals. New projects, new avenues of research. Moments like this just show that this time isn’t wasted. It’s used by the bizarre collection of electrified fat that somehow came to drive human creativity. You just may not realize it at the time.