Kate Baker held to the premise that a writer could never let her guard down. Not that she thought there were people out to get her – though, to be honest, she never thought there weren’t, either – but because she didn’t want to miss anything.
It was the same urge that made her travel with her head out the car window. You just never knew when some amazing sight would present itself. A careful writer needed to be constantly ready to seize that image and squirrel it away. Story ideas sleeted constantly through the multiverse – Terry Pratchett said so and Kage believed it – and all one needed was a properly open mind. And, of course, the correctly tuned attention.
As Kage also used to say, “My mind is so open other people are using it.” Often she resented that, but all in all she grew used to the phenomenon, and learned to use it. Countless portions of her stories, from snappy one-liners to epic battle scenes, came to her whole out the aether.
I have currently been struggling with the inception of a story I have already agreed to write. (This is not an unusual problem, as many of you, Dear Readers, are personally aware …) Today, I have also been struggling with intermittent narcolepsy – that’s a problem with congestive heart failure; you find the need to sleep at sudden and mysterious intervals. A late friend of mine, who was and still is my guru in all things cardiac, told me it meant my heart was rebooting what little core data it still possessed, and I should never argue. So I cooperate, and sleep then.
I woke up today from a 14 hour nap and saw a handwritten missive on the white wall beside my bed. (This was, of course, in the penumbral world of not-quite awake, when many things manifest that you never see once you get your eyes all the way open.) It was written faint and wee, in pencil, and in Kage’s distinctive spiky printing. I couldn’t read it, but I knew it was plot advice for my disaster story. So I memorized the way it looked, written a-slant on the bumpy plaster of the wall, and I am confident it will become clear when I need it.
Later this afternoon, while watching Antique Road Show (a sad British special from the Valley of the Somme) I attained a sudden clarity on the format of the story. And so it began to gel. I’m not going to make any wild claims of success here, because one can always write crap. Often with the greatest of ease … but at least I can begin now.
And it’s all because I was ready and watching. As Kage always averred, it doesn’t matter so much what you’re watching for, as that you are watching in the first place. Most people never are. I had cosmically unusual good luck.
Another life lesson, Dear Readers. Keep watching the … whatever. You may gain a self-realization, or a wonderful story idea, or just an idea at all; which can never be underestimated. Then, if you locate the car battery and some nipple clamps, you can wake up and begin to write.