from the Korean Army to being published

the blog of an "ex-patriot" writer in Korea

Entry #55: The Flame of Conception

with 2 comments

Inspiration is fickle and comes at the most random times. In Sweet Thursday, John Steinbeck writes,

The flame of conception seems to flare and go out, leaving man shaken, and at once happy and afraid. There’s plenty of precedent of course. Everyone knows about Newton’s apple. Charles Darwin and his Origin of Species flashed complete in one second, and he spent the rest of his life backing it up; and the theory of relativity occurred to Einstein in the time it takes to clap your hands. This is the greatest mystery of the human mind—the inductive leap. Everything falls into place, irrelevancies relate, dissonance becomes harmony, and nonsense wears a crown of meaning. But the clarifying leap springs from the rich soil of confusion, and the leaper is not unfamiliar with pain.

Twice a week, I travel from my home to the Non-hyeon area where I work part-time at an investment company. While I don’t like taking on extra work—because it takes away time from my writing—all I do is show up for an hour or so and write a few e-mails on behalf of the chairman for a decent chunk of change. I was sitting in sluggish Gangnam traffic on the way home the other day when inspiration struck, the flame of conception igniting.

“You have to start working on your next book before you start contacting agents,” Krys told me years ago. It’s always bothered me because, while I had a few vague ideas swimming around in my head, none were substantial. I didn’t know how to develop any of them into something meaningful and left them in the back of my head in that initial of stages. It continued to bother me throughout the re-write and lately throughout revisions but I ignored them because I need to finish this book. I told myself I’d get around to it once I had finished revisions and found an agent.

It was in my car, the old school rap blasting and a cigarette burning between my fingers, that a substantial idea came to me. When I say substantial, I mean an idea that gives me conviction. None of my previous ideas gave me conviction, the belief that I will turn this idea into a developed and meaningful story. It was exciting, the first thing I’ve been excited about in a very long time. After driving home and parking my car, I walked to the coffee shop and didn’t bother listening to my mp3 player on the way, the embers of conception still burning brightly.

Of course, inspiration is the beginning but not the end. I went on the Internet and started doing research. I prayed as I surfed through related websites, hoping that no one else had written the same book. Although I’m fairly certain the idea was not produced by external stimulus, there have been cases where writers in different continents and different times have written almost identical books. I was relieved to find that while there was a mention of the central premise on an obscure Wikipedia page, it was an example of a logic problem rather than an example from a book or movie.

While there are many particulars I have yet to work out, the simple fact of having a workable idea for my next book is definitely assuring. When asked about my next book, I no longer have to answer that I’ll worry about it once this first book is finished. I’ve written rough drafts of several scenes and hope to get to primarily focusing on its development as soon as I’m finished with this round of revisions.

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Written by Young

December 19, 2012 at 7:43 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Good luck nursing that flame into a biblical pillar of fire.

    Kevin Kim

    December 20, 2012 at 2:02 am

    • Haha, thanks. I have a good feeling about it. We’ll see if I can translate this feeling into a working story.

      holdenbeck

      December 20, 2012 at 12:40 pm


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