I am currently reading Life of Pi by Yann Martel. The opening establishes how the writer went off to India to try and finish a book, and it just wasn’t happening – great characters, wonderful story, no spark. He describes the realization as ‘something soul-destroying.’ And then he mails the failed manuscript to a fictional address in Siberia.
All writers: novelists, poets, playwrights, we all know the feeling well. You’ve done the work, you know how to do the work. There’s no disputing that work is or is not being done. You’ve created the characters exactly as they should be created. You have a complex and detailed plot, no one is saying that you haven’t done the work! And yet….. it’s the part of writing you can’t manufacture. You can’t explain it. You can’t bottle it. You know when it’s there and you know when it’s not. The spark.
It’s a horrifying feeling to realize the absence of spark. It is soul-destroying. You try to ignore it, deny it, pin one together from odd socks and leftover buttons and say, ‘See! It’s there! See how pretty it is?’
I have one play that I’ve been working on, off and on, for three years. I love the characters. I love the complicity of the plot. I think it’s something special. And it just won’t gel. It won’t come together. It lacks spark.
I’ve carried this play with me on several trips this summer because I thought, maybe, I’d be inspired. No such luck. The pages are worn. Notes scrawled on every page. Slash marks, visions, wonderful ideas, oh so many ideas. One of these days I’m going to have to gather my notes and mail them to Siberia. Because, really, there’s only so long I can flick my Bic and get nothing….