It is rare, so rare, that something random can lead to an enormous breakthrough in something you are writing. And yet that very randomness is almost some kind of weird cosmic force. Imagine, for example, that you, a writer, have been working on a novel for nearly two years–off and on, really, around other books and other projects–but something has always been missing from that manuscript; something doesn’t work, you can’t quite get it to work, you write draft after draft after draft, you ask other friends to read it and give you input, you talk to other writers about it, and still…something’s just not quite right, not quite there. You know it’s missing something and you agonize over it, try to write it out in your journal.
And then one day, wasting time on a break scrolling through social media, someone posts a link to an essay which is basically a hatchet job on a writer you’ve come to appreciate, while still having some reservations about that writer’s art, and where it comes from, and the eye with which said writer sees the world might be colored in some ways by their own experience which might also not allow them to see things as empathetically as they might, as you yourself might wish they had. And during the course of this hatchet job, the essayist posts a link to a piece written by the problematic artist, and you arbitrarily click on the link–which only offers a strange title, the title the problematic artist gave to his/her piece.
And suddenly, you realize that this piece, originally published in 1992, was part and parcel of a much bigger story that you distinctly remember and completely forgot about. And as you read this piece, which you’ve actually not read before but had read other reportage of the story, you realize and remember that this is the thread of the novel you are writing and having so much trouble with.
This true crime story, in 1992, inspired you to create the town and characters and the story you are writing now…only you’d forgotten the inspiration, the original plot, everything but the town and the set-up and the characters.
And you realize that THIS is your answer. Using this as your basis for the story solved every single problem you have with your manuscript, your story, and its resolution.
And had you not been bored, had you not been scrolling through your Facebook feed, had some random friend not shared a random essay for some random reason, you never would have remembered, you never would have solved the problem.
And this is why writers drink.