Learning to Write XV
Having written one novel and worked your way through the minefields of publication, you may find yourself pondering the possibility of doing it all again. You may find yourself saying (not to your publisher or agent, but to someone altogether closer – perhaps even yourself): I want to write a book, another novel, but I have no idea what it is going to be about.
This is a known hurdle in the evolution of professional novelists; perhaps in the life of all writers?
You already know that it is impossible to sit around and wait for inspiration. If you don’t know that you had better learn it here and now. Inspiration comes from the act of writing itself. Writing produces inspirations. Inspiration doesn’t produce a novel or any other extended work of prose. Got it? Good.
Remember it. Waiting around for inspiration is a luxury only enjoyed by writers with some other form of income.
As a professional writer you will be actively searching for and finding a theme and characters to help you flesh it out. And this process, this activity will give birth to that second being inside you, which Orhan Pamuk referred to in My Father’s Suitcase, his Nobel lecture.
Perhaps you will recognise the culmination of this process as a moment of stillness, nothing more than that, but it will place you once again in command of a set of tools which you can use to forge your next book.
Although we tend to talk about these processes in a semi-mystical way, the reality is that they are won for the artist by engaging in the activity of his or her art. You have to do it before you can discover that you are doing it.