Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Whose Idea Was This?

By Jessica Park

Andrew is currently curled up on the floor in a fetal position and twirling his hair into tiny circles (read: deep editing phase for his newest novel). So being the friend that I am, I of course stepped around him on my way the fridge. No, that's actually not true--actually, being his friend, I offered to fill in for him today. On my way to the fridge.

God, it’s so great being a writer! I mean, except for the anxiety, panic, mental blocks, fear, self-loathing...

No, no. I really do love being a writer. But I often strongly side with Dorothy Parker and her famed sentiment, “I hate writing, I love having written.” Finishing a book gives a sense of accomplishment like no other, and it’s what I strive for.

I mean, obviously. Hello? Who sets out to write half a book?

It’s the getting there that can be tricky.
My ideas start slowly in the back of my mind. A feeling, a scene, maybe even just a line that I want to hear a character say. And then I build an entire book around that. Piece by piece. It can take weeks or months for that initial idea to grow into a full-blown plot, and the slow pace can drive me nearly insane. I want to go, I want it done and over!

I have a fantasy that I’ll come up with a book idea, sit down at the computer, and bang out a concise, logical outline in what I envision as a studious, authorly manner. I’ll be wearing a gorgeous Ralph Lauren ensemble. There could be riding boots, perhaps. Hair fabulously styled, yet still with the appearance of being casual. A thoughtful, diligent expression on my face as I focus and organize my ideas while poised at my mahogany desk...

Pfft. Hardly. Here are more likely scenarios:

1. I’m driving in the car, and a song comes on. I feel something... pain, love, hurt, angst, hope. But I feel. My thoughts wander and become daydreams. My brain goes into overdrive, triggered by a word or phrase. Movie-like scenes flash before my eyes. I miss my exit... The song goes on repeat for the next eight hours as I drown in the emotion. Or maybe as I cling to it, I will spend a week obsessing over this song and this scene. Periodically I scrawl fractured notes on scraps of paper and misplace them. But the scene is solidified.

Only 89 more to go...

2. I’m on the treadmill, and I think about my book. I close my eyes and grip the side bars as I walk ferociously up the incline. I will walk toward something. The movie images return, soon flashing the same scene over and over, but with no forward motion. So I play it again. What happens next? I turn up the music, pick up my pace. I listen. Listening to characters can bring amazing solutions to stumbling blocks. I should do it more. I fly off the back of the treadmill, probably trip over laundry, and scramble to wake up my laptop. Notes. I have to make notes now. Because I got it. I found a piece of the story.

Only 88 more to go...

Later, I will somehow string together my one-line quotes, my jumbled notes, my definitives, and my questions. And after many, many cups of coffee and very few hours of sleep, after immersing myself (often too deeply) in a fictional world that feels oh-so-non-fictional, an entire book will be born.
It ain’t glamorous, but it’s the truth. And a truth that I wouldn’t change, because when the right ideas come, they drive away the angst and worry, and confusion.

Then writing is not my work, it is very simply my air.

 Jessica Park is the author of LEFT DROWNING, the New York Times bestselling FLAT-OUT LOVE (and the companion piece FLAT-OUT MATT), and RELATIVELY FAMOUS. She lives in New Hampshire where she spends an obscene amount time thinking about rocker boys and their guitars, complex caffeinated beverages, and tropical vacations. On the rare occasions that she is able to focus on other things, she writes. Please visit her at and on Facebook at and Twitter @JessicaPark24


  1. You called it. My stories come to me in bits and chunks too, and often while I'm working out. But I keep a digital recorder with me at all times, so I can "take" notes without injuring myself or stopping what I'm doing. :)

    And congratulations on your terrific success. Thanks for posting with us and taking care of Andrew.

    1. Thank you, LJ!

      Andrew and I have a theory that we access emotions, and then perhaps creativity, when we work out because we're tapping into muscle memory. Or something... But I have gotten so much book material during workouts!

      I need to start recording things onto my phone instead of flying off the treadmill. That sounds safer. :)

  2. Well said, Jesiica!

    The icky parts of writing (mental blocks, anxiety, conviction that I'm a lousy story-teller) also call for physical activity. Depending on the problem, I'm either up and pacing (tiny problem, easily fixable), on my treadmill (adjustments required), or heading outdoors for a long walk (you don't want to know).

    I love your fantasy, your success, and your friendship with Andrew.

    Off to order a digitial recorder...

  3. Thanks for the informative and entertaining peek into the mind and life of a bestselling author, Jessica! It's obvious by this post that you're an excellent, engaging writer! And one whose books I must get my hands on. Soon. :-)

  4. Thanks, Jessica, for holding down the fort while it spins mercilessly around me at breakneck speed. A commendable job of it, too I might add. Just be sure to keep one eye on the road while in search of inspiration

    Like I should talk, right?

    1. I keep my eyes on the road... but I may just end up 200 miles from home before I notice anything wrong.

  5. Wow Jessica. What a powerful blog about the writing process for those of us who read, not write. Thank you for your story. I'm sharing this one with all friends, writers and readers. It's a winner.

    Pam Stack
    Host, Authors on the Air


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