Writer in Residence

Inspiration is Inconvenient

By Brian Wilkinson


I’ve been talking about writing, publishing, YA, comics, and all of these other aspects of being involved in the writing world. Now I’m going to interrupt all of this to talk about inspiration.
It’s inconvenient and a bit of a pain.

I’m just throwing that out there. If you’re an author, you likely know what I mean. It comes to you when you least expect it and for me, at least, when I’m least prepared or interested in dealing with it. That’s why I thought I’d put up this blog post that seems out of nowhere and off the path I was following — because that’s what inspiration is like. It derails things entirely, but usually with the best of intentions.

I woke up early one day this past week because nature was calling. I stumbled through the darkness and then lay back down to try to claim whatever sleep I could before I got up for work. Then I started thinking. Damn you, brain! Leave me alone!

Passing Place

Sometimes inspiration hits you and you hope you have time to write it down. Easier said than done.

But alas, it wouldn’t stop. I lay there in a semi-conscious state for more than 45 minutes (I know, because I frequently looked at the clock) and began to write a book in my brain. All the main beats. All of the things I wanted to cover and more. I was so excited but also so tired that I could not get my body out of bed to write it all down.

I actually admonished myself several times during this process. I both wanted to stop and get some sleep but was afraid of what would happen if I didn’t keep going with what I was thinking about. It all seemed so good, but my thoughts were traveling far and wide. I knew I could potentially lose the essence of what it was if I didn’t write it down as soon as possible. I mean, I had the last line, the intro, the whole concept. But I was in bed. I was tired. Eventually, I fell back asleep. As the father of two young kids, let me tell you that sleep is worth its weight in gold. Even the lure of a good story isn’t powerful enough to beat a few moments of peace and quiet.

The downside of taking that moment of peace is that I still haven’t written it down. The funny part is that though I was annoyed at myself for the sudden creative output that in trying to work my brain off of the book idea I began to think about how it would make for a good blog post. So, here you go. If you’re enjoying this so far, you’ve benefited at the expense of my rest. I hope you’re pleased with yourself.

As for the book, luckily I still have the core of the idea. But in the bright light of day it doesn’t hold the same kind of energy for me that it did when I was half awake. I still know what I wanted to do with the whole thing, but it seems less shiny. I don’t know if that’s because I’m thinking more clearly or because I lost the moment. That’s the problem with inspiration, as I see it. If you don’t strike when it comes for you there is every possibility that it will fade away. I’d love to tell you about my idea here, but authors can be selfish beings in the beginning. For now, it’s something I’ll keep to myself.

I really believe that there are more good ideas out there that don’t make it to the page just because of timing and I would bet that’s the case for a lot of authors and would-be authors. Often, my best writing happens in my brain when there is nothing much else to occupy it. A book that I’ve already written but not yet sold came to me as a result of a dream. It was just a few moments, but it was scary enough and interesting enough that I managed to get a whole book out of it.

I’ve tried to put other dreams I’ve had into words, but in the end the imagery of the dream wasn’t enough to push it to fruition. But that’s inspiration. A fickle thing, to be sure. It often comes when I’m driving. If there’s no one else in the car and the radio isn’t on my mind drifts into different stories. Sometimes it’s just a daydream about winning the lottery, but other times it’s whole scenes of a book I’m writing. If I time it right, once I’m done driving I’m near a computer or another way I can write down the ideas and I’m good to go. It doesn’t always work out this way.

Inspiration doesn’t care where you are or what you’re doing, just so long as it’s hard to capture. It could strike when you’re out for a long walk. It can happen in the shower. When you’re trying to go to bed. At a staff meeting. At lunch. In the middle of the night.
Also, when you’re on the toilet. Almost always when you’re on the toilet.  

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.

Brian Wilkinson attempts to juggle multiple careers as an author, high school teacher, and librarian. He currently lives in East York, Ontario, with his wife and two children, who served as the inspiration for the main characters in his first novels, Battledoors and Paramnesia. Brian was born and raised in Guelph, Ontario, where he attended the University of Guelph and received a BA in English Literature. He continued his writing career by earning a diploma in Journalism from Humber College, and applied those skills by working as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, the Toronto Star, and EYE Weekly, as well as serving as a co-publisher for the comic news site ComiXfan, and an editor for Humber Etcetera, where he won a Columbia Scholastic writing award for first-person column-writing. He was even lucky enough to realize a lifelong dream by writing for Marvel Comics when he co-wrote X-Men: The 198 Files. Brian feels like he is the luckiest person on Earth. He gets to be a dad, a husband, a teacher, and a writer. Not too bad, huh?