The Blank Page is a new weekly series on Novelty Revisions dedicated to any writer who is just beginning their journey or starting again after a long pause. Check back every Monday for more tips and inspiration.
It was a song that didn’t exist. Yet it kept playing on repeat inside my head.
Over. And over. And over.
This went on for weeks. I went to sleep humming the melody. I woke up with it ringing in my ears. Who knows — it could have even become the soundtrack to my dreams.
Finally I couldn’t take it anymore. Humming into my phone’s microphone just wasn’t going to cut it. I reached for my violin, something I hadn’t done in weeks because the world was on fire and I couldn’t deal — and struggled through my inexperience as a beginner to get that melody out of the constant cycle of my thoughts.
I can’t speak for every musician — I don’t know if this is always how songs are born. But throughout my years as a creator, it seems the ideas I’ve committed to the longest and the hardest have always been the ones that came to me when I wasn’t calling for them.
For me, once an idea plants itself in my head, it tends to travel straight to my heart. And at least in the beginning, I cannot let it go. I can’t forget. I must try. I must create it.
Songs are their own form of storytelling, and the way a song touches your heart works the same way when it’s the idea for a book or a poem or a blog post. You very rarely summon a story. Inspiration doesn’t usually work that way. It is spontaneous. Many times, it is all-consuming.
But how do you know the story that speaks to you is the right one? How do you know it truly belongs to you?
A story will never actually say your name out loud. Obviously. Because it’s an idea, not a thing. It can’t use words. That’s why it depends on you to handle the word part of the equation.
It’s a feeling, really — this call. It’s some mysterious cocktail of excitement and dread, wonder and familiarity for which a recipe has never existed and likely never will. You can’t recreate its magic. One day you’re just sitting on the train on your way to the same office building you commute to every day and HEYYOOOOOOO THIS IS AN IDEA! I AM HERE! I CANNOT BE IGNORED!
It will wrap itself around you and squeeze.
If you’re lucky, it will never let go.
But you’ll tolerate minor suffocation because these are the things we do for our children, the ideas that bind themselves to us in such a way that we cannot refuse them.
Not all ideas will find a forever home in your heart. But if you give them time and space and just the right amount of attention, the ones meant to stay will become constant companions. They’ll follow you everywhere you go. At times you’ll wish you could spend just a few minutes alone, but mostly you’ll find comfort and joy in having them around.
You know an idea is yours when it makes you feel alive. When it gives you purpose. When it reminds you why you dream of telling stories to the world.
The idea will keep talking. The song will keep playing in your head even after you’ve played it a dozen times.
But maybe that’s how you know it’s one of the good ones.
So good that it stays with you, and you don’t mind.
Just starting out as a writer or returning from an extended hiatus? Let me know how I can help. Just drop a comment below with your questions/concerns — I am here to serve.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is an editor and writer, and a 12-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food, and Star Wars.