by Eric DevineThere’s a notion about creative types that I’d like to call bullshit on. The one in which weare depicted as suddenly inspired by the muse and from thereare propelled to create. Sure, life inspires, but not in the rush of singular understanding that allows one, as if by magic, to pull beauty out of thin air.I’m calling out this falsehood because it’s damaging to anyone who is tryingto be creative. The idea demands that it’s all or nothing with creation, and that inspiration is thisall powerful force guiding us down the paved road. The flip side is that without such magnitude of creative energy, we’re left stranded, in the middle of nowhere. That’s a lie.Inspiration comes in many forms, but I see it mostly as a map, one that can only be seen a piece at a time. And this damn map loops back around, takes wrong turns, and is woefully inadequate compared to a GPS. But how much beauty is found in the precision of satellite directions?Therefore, step one of inspiration is embracing the meandering process that is creation. Yes, you will see a glimpse of the picture, but then it quickly fades. So move onto the next step, figuring out how to maintain your story, how to keep motivated once you’ve passed that first intersection, and the roads are all dark.
For an author this is the terrain you must be comfortable with. You are the guide and have now suddenly found yourself in a back alley that reeks of urine and beer. When the wind picks up there’s a hint of blood and malice. What do you do?
This was Tap Out for me. I wrote, by hand, in the semi dark, outside my infant’s bedroom. I was inspired to write my story of poverty and violence and possible salvation after watching teens at the school where I teach. However, that glimpse of them and the idea of what their lives could be like with absolutely zero resources would have only gotten me through the first chapter. I didn’t sit, sandwiched around early morning feedings (why I was outside her door), and miraculously spill the novel from my pen. Far from it.
I got stuck. Someone from that back alley emerged. A bottle was broken and I was in danger. But I fought for the next scene, and the next, until I was into a book so dark I was terrified of it. But I was also in love with what I was doing.
At this point in my career I had no major publications, had parted ways with two agents and was dangerously close to absolute failure. But Tony, Rob, the trailer park, Chaz and Cameron and Dave and the crew, they weren’t mere figments. They were as alive as I was, and mattered to me almost as much as my baby girl. It did not matter whether I sold this story. What mattered was that I write the story, that I saw it through and gave these characters the finality they deserved. And while doing so, I realized I had surpassed step two, and was blissfully unaware of the third step of inspiration: not giving a f@%k.
It’s true. Who’s inspired by the safe story, the quiet novel? Not me. I want the edge, the thrill. And I also know that with this desire comes enormous risk. I could have bombed with <em “mso-bidi-font-style:=”” normal”=”” style=”position: relative;”>Tap Out. And, in fact, I had a critique group tell me it was too much, too real. It’s obvious how I dealt with that opinion. Step three is not about being arrogant, however; it’s about respecting your story and yourself enough not to fold.
And this lesson, these steps, of dropping into a story and losing my way, fighting hard to find a path through, and then falling in love with forging that path is what keeps me coming back. I am constantly inspired, moment after moment, by every creative turn of phrase, every slick plot twist, and every heartbreaking moment of honesty. And just as quickly, I am lost, but understanding I need to work for the next insight.
This is writing. It doesn’t happen because of a light bulb moment. It comes from being unafraid of sitting in the dark and stitching a map, one word at a time.
Kirkus Reviews for Tap Out: