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.


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?