Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

A Flurry of Ideas

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Sometimes, writing is tougher than it appears.

The last few days, I had a flurry of ideas that I felt may make up some good blogs.  The first was about the difficulty of writing while overtired, the second was about the craft of writing reviews, and the third was a specific look at writing humor — it may look easy in retrospect, but it’s not.

However, when I tried to nail any of them down, I was left with the equivalent of a mouthful of feathers instead of a whole, live chicken to work with — or, if you’d rather another analogy, instead of finding the grand prize, it was as if I’d found the booby prize instead.  Writing is like this, because sometimes you just have to struggle with the words until they come out.

This made me wonder if I was the only writer alive who had this problem for a bit (I know; ’twas a midnight thought) before I realized that every writer must have this difficulty time and again.  So how are we supposed to deal with it?

Getting to the three subjects I considered: in order to write humor, we writers often exploit tired, hackneyed, clichéd subjects.  Getting someone to laugh about seemingly nonsensical things helps get whatever truth remains in these older, seemingly-worn ideas and bring it into sharper relief. 

But it’s not easy to write humor, no matter how easily the joke or phrase or pun may fall off the page.  I know when I work out a good passage in “An Elfy Abroad” (sequel to “Elfy,” and as such another comic urban fantasy), I usually have to first figure out what’s going on, then write it down as best I have it, then re-work it as many times as need be in order to get both the jokes and the story right.

This may seem odd, but writing reviews often requires the same exact mind-set; it sometimes takes me several attempts to write a review.  Because I have to really consider what I’m going to say, oft-times I find that I have a slightly different written opinion than I do verbally.  I think this is because when I write, I think critically; when I am merely talking, sometimes what I say just comes out — and that’s not workable in any sort of credible review.  Once again, while writing a review may seem easy (everyone hates a critic), it isn’t, and most reviewers try very hard to give the best sense of a book, movie, piece of music or performance they possibly can.

Finally, writing while tired is something I try to avoid at all costs.  My definition of “tired” is “been up longer than eighteen hours” or “have had less than four hours sleep three nights running” — and the reason I avoid writing fiction, reviews or blogs during these times is because my words often come out not just wrong, but catastrophically wrong.

But when I can’t avoid it — the idea I have is too strong to ignore, or I have a new short story idea that must be written down or lost — I try to be as positive about myself and my writing as possible, while remembering to look over whatever I’ve written the next day (or maybe two) in order to get a better handle on it.  This way I’ve satisfied the need to write without completely driving myself crazy; I am a perfectionist and as such, writing while overtired is an extremely difficult and frustrating task.

All three of these subjects have in common one thing — the need to persist.   If I keep trying to get my humor right, the passage will come to me; if I keep trying to get the review right, I’ll be able to convey what I thought about the book as best I can.  And if I am able to bull through my body’s attempt to shut down my creative impulses (while doing my best to get as much rest as I’m able, of course, in the process), I’m going to eventually be able to work out the idea, passage, or story to my personal satisfaction.

The moral of this whole somewhat accidental blog about “the flurry of ideas” is simple: don’t give up.  Because the simple fact you have a flurry of ideas means you need to write about them, you need to comment upon them, and you need to realize that sometimes, writing takes as long as it takes.

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 29, 2010 at 4:46 pm

Posted in Elfyverse, Writing

4 Responses

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  1. Good post, Barb.

    I found that consistency really helped me early on when I was writing Corruptor. Wake up, shower, check email, play a game of chess against the computer, then start to write. It helped me stay on pattern with the novel and put some of the other ideas which threatened to take over on the back burner for the time being.


    July 29, 2010 at 6:00 pm

  2. Thanks, Jason. I’m glad it made sense. 🙂

    I was happy that I wrote something today, though it wasn’t on anything I’d anticipated. I started looking at some story starts — stuff I’d started but then ran out of ideas for — and was able to get six hundred new words onto a previous 250 word start. I still am not exactly sure where that story is going, but I now at least have something to play with. 😉 (Do you ever do this?)

    I think consistency helps, too — your point, above — but lately consistency has been lacking in my present living situation. So I contrive the best I can, as per usual. (I write best between two and four a.m. But right now, Mom’s having a rummage sale in the early a.m.’s and that means I most likely won’t have much energy or stamina at that hour — naturally, as I help her with the rummage sale.)

    Barb Caffrey

    July 29, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    • Yeah, I understand. The show is really cramping my style.


      July 29, 2010 at 8:13 pm

      • How’d the show go tonight, btw?

        As for what we can do when our schedules get disrupted — hope for some energy during a time we don’t normally write? This is the best I’ve been able to come up with, and it doesn’t always work.

        Barb Caffrey

        July 31, 2010 at 5:37 am

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