Stealing Inspiration and Outrunning Doubt: A New York State of Anxiety

I took last week off to go home to New York. I didn’t want to neglect this blog, but there was just too much to do, like taking this photo with a hero of mine.

Gerty

Nashville has been good to me, but life in New York has had the deepest influence on me as a writer, from the work routines I’ve developed, to my approach to storytelling, to the books I read. I consider myself a New York writer.

It was always easy to get frustrated or disillusioned in New York, but it was almost impossible to be bored. Even when I wanted no part of it, every street I walked down always wanted some part of me. The world felt real, it felt alive in the books I was reading. It didn’t seem I really had a choice but to create something that was passionate and vibrant, that came at you always from all sides, that explained how you were a part of everything and it was a part of you.

I started my first novel in a coffee shop more than twelve years ago. I began with the last and first pages, with no idea at all of what would connect them. I never sat down to write without taking a long walk first. I would do three things while walking.

1. Think about what I read earlier in the day.
2. Take in the sights and sounds around me, trying to steal inspiration.
3. Be so uncertain I’d have anything to put down on paper later that I felt physically ill.

The last part is what I miss most. Pretty routinely, I experienced an onset of panic created (quite justifiably) by the inkling I had no idea what I was doing. From there, I made the long arduous journey back to the point where the only sensible direction to go was forward. It was stupid, it was exhausting. It was exhilarating.

I remember an interview with a Pro Bowl running back where it was observed how week after week he shared the field with very large, very fast, very strong men who would stop at nothing to crush him whenever he had the ball. How was it he managed not to be intimidated by those defenders? The response was simple: I didn’t. I ran scared. Every game.

I recently saw Kate McKinnon in her brilliant performance in Ghostbusters. She did a morning talk show shortly after, and it took about twenty seconds to realize she was terrified of her audience. What motives you? she was asked. Fear, she basically answered.

bk empire

As a creative person, fear is my most valuable asset. I thrive on the feeling of being in over my head, of taking on something that feels beyond my abilities, of having committed myself completely to a project that I can’t visualize the end of.

No one runs faster than someone running scared.

Cover reveal for Kevin the Vampire next week!

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