Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Dead-Ended Street of Inspiration

A couple of days ago, I was sitting at the dining room table, just kind of diddling around, when I was seized with sudden, uncontrollable, unexplained inspiration. 

Just this image...this scene popped into my head. 

So I hurried to the living room and got on my laptop, opened a Word document, and feverishly began typing. 

The following two pages of complex, incomplete genius ensued:

“In all these years, Kate, I have never interviewed anyone quite like you,”
“Oh. Um…thank you,” Kate said, smiling hopefully.
“Yes. Yes…good gosh, you’re perfect.”
Kate was a little stunned by his words. “Thank you,”
“Good gosh,” he said again, running a hand through his hair, leaving it standing up at assorted odd angles. “I never really believed I’d ever find someone,”
He sounded absolutely miserable about it, but also like he was trying to bring himself to be excited.
“Uh, Sir,” Kate said, starting to feel very self-conscious. “Have I…is something wrong?”
He shook his head in disbelief. “Incredible,” he said. “Absolutely incredible.”
He didn’t look at her as he spoke. “You’re perfect for the job. There’s no use trying to deny it; it would be selfish not to give you the position.”
He slowly pushed his chair back with a loud squeak, and bending down, opened the left-hand bottom drawer of his desk. He stared into it, a mournful expression on his face.
Kate hated that look. It made her want to leap up and wrap the Professor up in an enormous, reassuring hug and make him a million promises, just to bring his smile back. The feeling surprised her, and she placed a hand over her pounding heart, trying to comprehend what was going on inside and out of her.
What was in the drawer?
Suddenly, the professor looked up and addressed her. “Tell me, Kate, are you a selfish person?”
Kate stared at him, looking into his earnest, searching brown eyes. She looked quickly back down at her lap, and thought about his question.  
Was she selfish?
She thought about everyone back home, and all the times all she’d ever wanted was to get away from them. She thought about all the times she’d called herself boring and useless. She thought about her best friend, back in Carney.
She sighed heavily. “I think so,” she replied.
He glanced back down into the drawer, and a sad but contented smile slowly spread across his lips. “Of course. You are perfect, Kate. Perfect.”
Kate looked up at him, her eyes shining with unexpected tears. “Sir?”
He stood, still looking down into the drawer, and Kate got to her feet, looking up at him nervously.
“Come here, Kate,” he said, beckoning with his hand, but never taking his eyes off the drawer.
Slowly, Kate pulled her skirt to one side so it wouldn’t trip her, and walked around the desk to stand beside the professor.
“Look,” he whispered.
Kate’s heart was pounding as she looked down into the drawer, not knowing what to expect, but certain something horrible and wonderful awaited her.
The bottom of the drawer had a thin layer of dust and a few dustbunnies. Nothing else. Except…except for the outline in the dust of something that had been there not too long ago. It looked like the outline of a small person wearing a voluminous dress; a doll.
“It’s empty,” the professor said quietly.
Kate was quiet for a moment. “Where is it now?” she asked gently. She didn’t know what the professor was getting at, but something about his tone seemed to indicate this drawer was sacred, no matter how ordinary or even boring it looked.
“Here,” he said. He suddenly, unexplainably, offered Kate his hand. He looked at her briefly, his eyes gleaming with some unknown, unguarded light.“Will you come with me?”
Kate stared up at Professor Ardent. Her lips parted slightly, about to immediately question him, immediately question everything. She barely knew this man. She barely knew what he was or what he wanted anymore. She felt angry, and affronted and…and…
She closed her mouth, as the weight of his question and the weight of her doubts settled against her heart.
You are perfect, Kate. Perfect.
Slowly, timidly, Kate stretched her hand out and slipped it into the Professor’s. His hand was much larger, and warm and soft. Kate swallowed, and closed her eyes.
“Let’s go,” he whispered.
And he stepped into the drawer, pulling Kate behind him.

If you're wondering, I have no idea where this is going, either. I really don't.

I just had this vision in my mind of two people in an office, and a strange interview coming to a close. Than as I typed, emphasis was put on a drawer. A strange drawer. It was up to me what would be inside it, so first I put a doll in there. No good. So I tried an outline in the dust where a doll had been. Still, no good. What use would there be here for any object, anyway? Finally, I just let the muse do what it wanted. 

Nothing is in the drawer. Not yet, anyway. Oh, now we've disappeared into the drawer together? Cool. 

I could almost say I had nothing to do with this, but I definitely could have coaxed this into being a slightly more logical and coherent piece. I just sort of let my thoughts fly out of my head before I could process them, and in the end I had something cool, but pretty much...pointless.

But this seems a little unfair, doesn't it? I mean, there's obviously SOMETHING there. Obviously Kate has a story. Her family and her past have a story. The best friend back in Carney has a story. Where's Carney, anyway? The mysterious Professor Ardent definitely has a story. And that empty drawer has a story. 

There's a story here.

But... I have no clue what it is. 

The possibilities are endless, and it's unlikely I'll be so spontaneously 'seized' by the perfect words and ideas to help me along the way. 

Oh, no. 

Such inspiration is fleeting; like a hit-and-run maniac. It bangs you over the head with brilliant ideas that are useless without context and--most importantly--PLOT. It than runs off laughing evilly as you nurse a headache and try to cope with the burden of an unfinished masterpiece. 

Cruel thing, inspiration.

Anyway, I've hit a dead-ended street here. My choices are:

1. Backtrack and see what came before the dead-end, and see if the answer lies there.

2. Turn onto a different road.

3. Walk past the DEAD END sign, push my way through the brush, and off-road my way to a story.

4. Consult a passerby on their opinion. This could be someone I know, or I could just start getting to know the characters and let them show me where they're going. 

5. Give up completely and let it be some pointless blob of stuff in my Documents box. 

6. Let it sit until I get more ideas.

7. ?

My, there's a lot of places you can go on a dead-ended street, aren't there?


  1. Gaaahhhhhh I know that feeling :(

  2. OFF-ROAD!!! You, Clare, are a determined creature. I firmly believe that if this story is meant to be something, you can make it something. Shoot holes in the dead end sign, hack away at that brush, and prepare to be amazed by the path that lies behind it all.

  3. Clare, this snippet is ingenious. I'm serious. Make it something. Push forward. GO. Go somewhere! ANYWHERE! Kate and that Professor NEED somewhere to go. They're floating in time and space waiting for the author of their story to give them breath! Put breath in their lungs and words on the pages! GO. GO. GO.