Something happens when I hit certain point in a writing project (and it’s not just me; I’ve checked) where the world starts conspiring to give me what I need. Everyone I meet seems to have some vital information or some sparkling anecdote that’s perfect for the chapter I’m working on; messages written in gravel at the side of the highway give me poignant lines; a song on the radio gives me my title. There’s a word for this phenomenon, apparently: serendipity – an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident. But sometimes it’s tempting to get new-agey about it, to entertain the thought that the story you’re writing already exists as some sort of Platonic Idea, and that God is giving you these small pieces of it, guiding you in your work to put the whole thing into words. (I don’t really believe that but it’s fun to pretend to sometimes.)
I enjoy the sensation that, wherever the story’s coming from, it’s not from me. Not from the part of me that makes choices, anyway. And this becomes most clear when I want my characters to do something, or I want something to happen, and it just won’t work. My characters refuse to do what I tell them. I write down my preferred version of events, but it’s not real; there’s only one way it can go, and feel right. This must be something like using a Ouija board – we feel like something external is at work, but most of us accept the explanation that the voices we access are actually coming for somewhere deeply internal.
What this amounts to, for me, is the belief (that I can’t shake, however flakey it may sound), that the leap I need to make, in order to create something out of nothing, is more one of faith than one of massive effort. I sit down with my notebook turned to a new page, or my computer’s cursor blinking on a stark white screen, and I think this is going to be so hard. But then, once I start, it’s not hard. It just happens. Words appear on the page that never occurred to me until I was writing them.
This is the opposite of paranoia, I guess – the conviction that the whole universe is conspiring to help me.