Thursday, September 19, 2013

Drawing Down Lightning

- a post by Jeanna Mason Stay

According to the all-knowing internet, the chance of being struck by lightning in your lifetime ranges from the (reasonably scientific) 1 in 3,000 to (my personal favorite for sheer size and specificity) 1 in 8,987,657.* Either way, I think we can agree that the odds are not high. A tall building like the Empire State Building, on the other hand, can get struck by lightning more than 100 times per year. If it were a person, it would get struck maybe 7,000 times in its life.
Earlier this week I suddenly realized that it had been almost a fortnight since I last posted here.** Gasp! I had absolutely nothing interesting to say. But I still had a few days, so I would just wait for a brilliant idea to strike me. Like lightning. A couple days passed, and whenever I thought about the post, I thought, “Oh, something will occur to me.” And then I shrugged it aside and thought about something else.

I kept waiting for lightning to strike. Which is an epically ridiculous idea.

If you want lightning to strike, you have to provide an object that lightning is drawn to. You want something very tall and pointy (like the Empire State Building). And, theoretically, if you want lots of lightning strikes, you want lots of tall, pointy objects. And tall, pointy objects need to be built (unless they’re mountains or trees—which I’m going to completely ignore for my metaphor here).

I’m sure you can see where this is going. Waiting for an idea was crazy talk. For every Stephenie Meyer lightning strike (she hadn’t been writing much for six years when suddenly one morning she woke up from a very vivid dream, started writing like crazy, and was under contract for Twilight six-ish months later),*** there’s a gazillion other authors who first had to plod along, building their stories and their skills, providing tall, pointy places for brilliant story lightning bolts to strike.

I have been avoiding my WIPs like the plague lately, hoping that magically one day I will wake up and my characters will be interesting again, my plotlines not riddled with holes, my prose at least look-at-able. This keeps on not happening. It feels like I need to just buck up and start building, making something, drawing down lightning. It’s better than just waiting.

* By the way, if you are a person who is easily plagued by unnecessary fears (like me), you probably shouldn’t research this in depth. Suffice it to say, if you can hear thunder, go inside and stay there. And don’t talk on the phone. Or do laundry. Or lie on the concrete floor in your garage (really? yes, really).

** If I haven’t mentioned it yet, I really love the word “fortnight.”

*** Which is not to say that she didn’t have to do a lot of work. It’s just that her story came to her in a way that is rare.


  1. I love your asterisks, Jeanna! The first had me laughing. :) This is a great reminder that if we want things to happen for ourselves, we need to make them happen.

  2. you are fabulous with your footnotes :) and the rest of course, too.

  3. Excellent points, Jeanna! The only way I’ve gotten as far as I have on my WIP is by writing even when I didn’t feel like writing, and every time I have I have come up with something- not necessarily all of it, but SOMETHING- that is worth keeping. My goal is 3,000 words a week, lightning or no lightning! ;-)

  4. Kasey, 3,000 a week is fantastic! Jeanna, I was just having a month like this myself-just not feeling the writing mojo. Then I started a marketing course on how to get published. I write about it here tomorrow. Now, I'm up 'til midnight (not necessarily a good thing) typing away! Sometimes we need to try something new.



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