Sometimes, I'll know for many months before finishing one project what my next will be. Other times, I may know, logically, what I *ought* to do, but there's a glimmer of light on the horizon, a colorful flash that makes the word "ought" sound awfully onerous.

Since colorful flashes don't come along every day, I stop to investigate, to play around a little with the notion. Joni calls this "dating an idea." Lots of times, the literary equivalent of the one-night stand doesn't work out. The idea proves itself to thin, impractical, or ridiculously unmarketable to sustain a novel. Or it doesn't fit in with my "laser-like focus" strategy of creating an evolving but recognizably-cohesive body of work.

And other times, one simply falls in love, as I have over the course of the past two months with a new project in a new-to-me (sort of, since it has elements of several old favorites) genre. I'm finding myself willing to take risks because it's such a pleasure remembering what it's like to be utterly transported by a story that has nothing to do with deadline commitments or previous career plans. Giving myself over to this "torrid affair," I eventually find myself hoping it might turn out to be a long-term commitment.

Whether or not it does, it's at least served to remind me that for all my plotting charts, how-to books, and every craft lecture I've attended, an essential ingredient in the writing of all fiction is--or ought to be--magic, or maybe love really is as good a word as any. Whatever it is, I'll bring the gift of it to all my work, and return invigorated.


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