The Idea Storm, by Mae Clair

Recently, I was in my family room, comfy on the couch and plugging away on my current WIP courtesy of my laptop, when I realized something spectacular was happening outside. The weather had been unusually hot that day and, as often happens during spring and summer, pop-up thunderstorms rolled into the area. The counties to the south and west of me were under severe weather watches, but since my area wasn’t in the main thoroughfare of atmospheric upheaval, I hadn’t been paying much attention to the sky.

Until a low rumble of thunder drew my attention out the patio door.

A moment before, the sky had been blue and clear. Now, it was a canvas of brooding charcoal and dark blue. Even as I watched, a swiftly moving front swallowed what little clear sky remained, drawing a distinctive line on the horizon. I hurried upstairs for my camera and managed to snap a few shots before the rain started. The force of the storm arrived within seconds, a barrage of thunder, lightning and wind. It was too hard to concentrate on my WIP, so I powered down my laptop and conceded to the weather.

stormyskies4red

This is looking from my back porch to the right of my rear yard. Notice the line of white near the horizon. That’s clear sky. Only moments before the entire sky had been that clear!

The force and suddenness of that storm still catches me by surprise.

As writers, ideas are much the same for us. How often have you been happily immersed in your latest WIP only to be blindsided by an idea from left field? And not just any idea, but an idea storm. Like unsettled weather, these come on suddenly and are charged with pent-up energy, waiting to explode into a fresh story. The idea storm demands attention, but for all its ferocity it’s also beguiling. Flashy and spontaneous, it takes a supreme contest of wills to resist.

I love the turbulence of a creative front and the rush of inspiration it unleashes in me. Unfortunately, idea storms often burst onto the scene when I’m already committed to another writing project. Sound familiar?

Like many authors, I try to set my idea storms aside, jotting a few notes with the promise I’ll reward myself with them later. Sometimes when I return they’re not as magical as they originally seemed. The luster has faded. Other times, they prove to be just what I needed and I take off on a tangent, inspired. My recently completed mystery/romance, ECLIPSE LAKE was much like that.

For the most part I still set the tumult of an idea storm aside, returning when I complete my current project. That’s the disciplined writer in me, a trait I worked long and hard to master. But there are occasions – oh, so many — when I want to fly and soar with the storm. I’m currently fighting two of those now (as if one wasn’t enough), but so far I’ve resisted the spell they’ve woven.

What about you? How do you handle an idea storm when you’re already committed and immersed in another WIP? Do you set it aside or do you try to work on both simultaneously?

24 thoughts on “The Idea Storm, by Mae Clair

  1. This is wonderful — both the description and the picture (altho that gave me some shivers!) I’ve said before that it feels like my story ideas can be like hurricanes, since there’s always one forming down the line while I’m trying to wrestle the current one into submission. So I give it a name and take some notes and file it away. Sometimes they don’t proceed in an orderly alphabetical fashion — LOL — and that’s when it gets challenging! Right now I’m trying to work on a couple things at once, and I’m hoping I can keep it all straight. 🙂

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    • One of these days I’m going to attempt the work-on-a-couple-things-at-once method and see if I can handle it. I’m wishing you success, Donna! The way you handle your story idea “hurricanes” sounds similar to how I handle mine. If only we had the leisure to do nothing but write!

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  2. GREAT post Mae! I’ve always considered myself a storm child. I love storms and will set aside what I’m doing to watch them…to dance in the rain and get myself soak and wet. Therefore I too am GUILTY of setting aside a current WIP when a mental “flash of lightning” occurs, I’ll write down what I see in my head.so as not to loose it and more often than not, that scene turns into a chapter sometimes two. And even though I will still give my current WIP my devoted attention, there are times I sneak away and visit the storm…

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    • I think I just may try visiting the storm more often than I have in the past. It’s frustrating when I can’t just run with an idea because of being entrenched in another project. I love storms too (real and imagined), especially the changes in the atmosphere before a real storm rolls in. It’s magnetic — much like lightning flashes of ideas you mentioned.

      Loved your comment about sneaking away and visiting the storm. You’ve got me inspired, Debbie! 😀

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  3. Nice description of the creative process! I know what you mean, when that idea flares up it takes you by force and sometimes you just have to weather it out and enjoy the power of it. Storms have such power and in the end brings you clarity. Love the post!

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    • What a great point, about the end of the storm bringing clarity. So true! After all the turbulence and creativity, that’s a gift at the end. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. glad you enjoyed my post!

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    • Alicia, I think there’s something special about a storm that inspires creativity. I’m especially creative during the “transition” period, right before the storm actually breaks. And like you, I enjoy sitting and watching the show.

      Glad you enjoyed my post! 🙂

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  4. That is a stunning pic.
    I’m not disciplined like you. I seem to always get what I think are wonderful gems of ideas when I’m on the last leg of a first draft. I want to abandon the WIP and start scribbling, and sometimes I do!
    I’m trying to become a more disciplined writer.
    PS: I love thunder.

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    • You’re trying to become more disciplined and I’d like to be a little more spontaneous, LOL. Why is it we always get hit with those great ideas at the worst times? I think it must be because as writers we’re ALWAYS in the middle of something!

      Glad you liked the pic. My camera made the sky bluer than it really was. It was actually closer to a sooty black. Very atmospheric and moody.

      I love to hear thunder too.

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  5. Our weather is the same. I had an idea “storm” for my current WIP, while watching a bad movie on tv. Luckily still writing it and in the back of my mind is my other WIP which I’ve left for now but when I get ideas for it I just note them down so they’re not lost

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    • I’ve got to jot ideas down too. I used to trust myself to remember but not any more. It’s getting too crowded up there!

      Glad to hear that bad movie was good for something 😀

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  6. Mae, I LOVED this post. I find “the idea storm” happening to me more and more frequently these days. I was struggling with the open on my current WIP. It felt stale and not quite right… I’d been messing around with it for days to no avail. So what happened? I walked my dogs…and suddenly this idea hits me. It’s active, it’s playful…and there I am…walking the dogs with no way to write it down. Poor hubby had been talking to me and I completely zoned out. He was mostly understanding…(though it took him a moment to recover when I threw the dog lead at him the second we got through the front door and ran for the computer). 😉

    Another happened when my puppy escaped and forced me to give chase through my neighbor’s yard thinking it was a funny little joke. Yup…ideas. That one was written down and saved for a rainy day (I thought the turn of phrase appropriate to match your post theme.) 😉

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    • Love the turn of phrase, Kitt!

      It sounds like your dogs are little muses for you 😉 I’ve zoned on my hubby a time or two too, Occasionally, he can even tell by my expression when I’m “thinking.”

      Nice to hear you’ve got all kinds of ideas brewing!

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  7. This just happened to me. An idea hit while reading another book, and I just had to give the idea some thought time. But I haven’t put anything on paper (read computer) yet. I just can’t. Not when I’m so close to finishing my current wip. When it’s done, though, you can bet I’ll do some brainstorming.

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    • I know you’ve been working hard to complete that WIP, Jessi. That’s discipline and dedication. I always tell myself that the idea I set aside will be a reward when I’m done with my current project. It helps me stay focused even when I want to brainstorm!

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  8. Oh Mae, it is funny you posted this today. Just today I was telling L.J about an idea I had while in the bathroom at work. I get all kinds of ideas while in the bathroom.. during the shower, brushing my teeth, doing the hair and make… etc…
    Maybe its all the porcelain tile that reacts to my brain waves?? (Oh! Look! There goes another idea!! lol)
    But I ran back to my desk and wrote it down… just in case I decide to act on it later 🙂

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    • LOL! You know, I do the shower, brushing teeth, hair-thing too. What is it about writers that we all seem to dream up ideas then? Maybe you’re onto something about the porcelain. 🙂

      And good thing you jotted down your idea. Who knows when it might erupt into a full-fledged story?!?! Always great to have you drop by, Loni! 🙂

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  9. I have a regular Nor’easter of ideas some days. I usually write down a scene or two to keep the storm fresh. Currently, I’ve got a sci-fi romance that I started in January of 2012, my NaNo project from a few years back as well as last year’s, and a brand-new paranormal. I’ve also got an idea for a few new paranormal series. Aaarrrggghhh! 😀

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    • Hi, Lynne. Wonderful to see you hear again! It sounds like you have a lot of storms brewing (I like the Nor’easter reference). With all of that creative energy bounding around, I hope you’re having fun with all those projects. Clearly, as writers, we rarely lack for ideas, just time! 😀

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      • How, nice to know, Lynne. 🙂 And I completely understand about not having enough time. That’s a daily hurdle for me too. Whenever you drop by is always a pleasure!

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  10. Though I’m late responding this, I have to tell you I read it when it was delivered to my mail box, Mae and I thought it was just wonderfully done. Loved the beautiful picture you captured, the way your weaved your analogy to writing into the post, and the beautiful imagery you captured in words. You are such a writer, girl– you just amaze me!!

    Right now, my life is too busy for new ideas. I’m got ’em on lock down! 😉

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    • LOL! I know you want to juggle the existing ones before letting new ideas in…at least for now until things settle down for you. Thanks for dropping by and commenting. It’s always great to see you here and I’m glad you enjoyed the post. You know how easy it is for me to let my muse run rampant! 🙂

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