Synchronicity— something writers seek as a positive harbinger indicating they are on the right path. That moment when fleeting thoughts, observations, and scribblings in moleskine all merge into one perfect before-then unknown conjunction. And I’m not talking about ifs, ands, or buts.
I have been evaluating how much mythology I want to introduce in my novel. Whether to stay with historical fiction touched by magic realism or bring it closer to historical fantasy. Having a political background, though not its focus, my novel could go either way. Doing so would add months of research, but I like research so that isn’t a problem. Learning it all well enough to do it justice to the land of my ancestors and to my relatives who still live there, that’s the hard part.
Creative process is an individualistic phenomenon particular to each writer. I look for synchronicity, a merging of my ideas presented in coincident hints that the universe is telling me that I am to investigate further.
The idea of bringing mythology into play struck me last summer but quickly became overwhelming as a writer entrenching herself into a budding literary career. The idea arose again in this morning’s early hours, waking at some godawful time being my punishment for falling asleep at 7 p.m. last night.
I am usually a night owl and most creative when it is inky black outside, save for the moon, and all are asleep in my house. Another part of the creative process, you might say. Such an early bedtime has overcoming a nasty cold at its root, and it not the norm here.
Waking at 1:30 a.m., instead of forcing my brain to shut down and return to dreamland, my thoughts started whirling about what I have felt is missing in the first 50,000 words of my novel. A writer’s mind does not turn off. The protagonist’s personality is not showing through, a frustration, but one I recognized during NaNoWriMo and knew I would address this month. But there was something else missing. That’s when mythology again entered my thoughts and would not let me go.
Remembering my inability last summer to merge my ideas in a way I felt worthy, I tried to distract myself by reading online articles #writing on Twitter is riddled with pertaining to my craft. The first one I opened was J.F. Penn’s article on her creative process found here — a topic I am always keen to read up on, seeing if other writers do things in similar ways to myself. It’s a reassuring shot in the arm when they do. If they don’t, they sometimes have great takeaway ideas I can integrate into my own process.
I loved that she, too, waits for synchronicity to show its face, because she knows it eventually will. Reading the inspiring article did the opposite of helping me sleep though, and I put my phone to the side, remembering that screens are said to suppress melatonin— read it here — and opened my new signed hardcover copy of Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Surely, reading a novel would tire my antibiotic laden sore eyes, and I would get back to precious sleep. After all, I had a blog post to write in mere hours, I couldn’t be up all night!
It didn’t help. I struggled through reading, my mind pulled in another direction— in the direction of mythology. The books were downstairs, why not muster up my motivation to leave my cozy down comforter and read that instead? Surely, it would be so new and research intensive that I would be asleep in no time.
When my father passed four years ago, I inherited several books on Irish mythology and folklore, but I have not read them. They are displayed in my bookshelf in the dining room amid family scrapbooks, books about herb and plant identification, and my complete Jane Austen anthology. This is a place of prominence. Deciding at 3:30 a.m. to give up attempts to induce sleep in my creative muse, I went downstairs, made some decaf green tea heavily loaded with clover honey for my sore throat, and went to the bookshelf. I saw three choices, one on Irish mythology, one on Irish sagas, and one on Irish folktales. Which way did I want to go?
Staying true to my original inspiration, I grabbed the one on mythology and glanced at the cover, for I had never paid attention to the author. And then I saw the complete title: Lady Gregory’s Complete Irish Mythology with a preface by W.B. Yeats. Both actual historical figures, both living in the area of Ireland— during the exact year— in which I am having my protagonist spend a good deal of time, both people I have been researching over the months hoping to have them pop up briefly in my novel.
The concurrence of these events does not mean I have to include these characters, or mythology at all, in my novel, but it does mean that in investigating these harmonious hints, I will discover information that will help me. I know this, just as other writers recognize that gut feeling propelling them in directions they never anticipate.
The result? Inspiration handed to me on what my blog should be about. The bonus? I get to leisurely delve into the mythology of my ancestors, curled up, recuperating under a warm blanket, tea– or hot toddy– at my side, for the whole of today.
(My writing companions in the wee hours of morning)