Ideas are beautiful, fragile creatures that stalk the night. But they are also powerful and heady and gloriously intrusive.
I don’t think that anything in the world excites me more or bring me greater joy that a new idea for a story.
Ted Hughes said it best in his wonderful poem, The Thought Fox, in which he uses the extended metaphor of a fox (gosh, this really is the year of the fox, isn’t it?), to convey what it’s like for a writer to get an idea.
Here is the first stanza, in which he conveys those first tremors of an idea:
“I imagine this midnight moment’s forest:
Something else is alive
Beside the clock’s loneliness
And this blank page where my fingers move.”
And here’s the last stanza in which the idea has grown strong and taken root:
“Till with a sudden sharp hot stink of fox
It enters the dark hole of the head.
The window is starless still; the clock ticks,
The page is printed.”
I love this paradox at the heart of ideas: how they need to be coaxed, how they’re shy and delicate – and how they can bulldoze you too.
Last night, a fox visited me as I was drifting off to sleep. An idea for a new Young Adult novel came to me whole: the characters, the plot, the setting, that bit of magic that I feel in my fingers when I know that an idea is alive. This is a rare gift indeed.
As my eyelids grew heavy I prayed to the god of inspiration that the fox wouldn’t sneak way overnight and leave me with nothing but blank longing when I woke up. I was lucky. I should have stayed up and scribbled but the idea stayed until morning and, as soon as I was able, I sat down with my notebook and poured out everything that had come to me in the night, and more, of course, as ideas cluster and grow when you put them to paper.
I hope that you are visited by a fox or two, and that you treasure the light and life those ideas bring into your life. Vx