It’s Alive

Every Halloween, after I’ve handed out the last of the candy—okay, I save a few Kit-Kats for myself—I turn out the lights, curl up on my sofa and watch Young Frankenstein starring the sorely-missed Gene Wilder. The script, co-written by Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks, is brilliant. I’ve seen it so many times I can recite the dialogue. I even know when to whinny like a frightened horse when someone says, “Frau Blücher.” I love the scene where Dr. Frankenstein reanimates the creature, who has mistakenly been given the brain of someone named Abbey Normal. While a huge storm rages, the white-coated doctor, with his mad scientist eyes and his wind-ravaged hair, looks up to the dark, menacing sky and shouts, “It’s alive!”

Now you’re probably wondering what this has to do with writing, but stay with me. I really do have a point.

Though they can’t be reanimated by the electric charge of a lightening bolt; there is a way to make our words come to life. It’s called—Inspiration. English scholar Cecil Maurice Bowra said, “Inspired words create life in us because they are themselves alive.” And these inspired words create a phenomenon called “inspiration contagion.”

It has been scientifically proven that the more writers feel inspired when they are writing, the more the reader will feel inspired when reading. Have you ever read a truly inspiring book and afterward you are so full of ideas that you can’t write them down fast enough? Inspiration is as contagious as a virus in a preschool. The only thing to do when hit with this bug is to sit back and enjoy the creative flow. And don’t worry that it will end.

Maya Angelou said, “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” And haven’t we all experienced this? Just when you think you have used up all your ideas, that your brain is empty and you’ll never again have another idea, you read or hear something inspiring and ideas seem to form in the ether, sprout wings and fly into your head.

But how do you turn those ideas into words that are alive? Isabel Allende’s method is simple. She said, “Show up, show up, show up, and after a while the muse shows up, too.” Annie Dillard said, “At its best, the sensation of writing is that of any grace. It is handed to you, but only if you look for it. You search, you break your heart, your back, your brain, and then—and only then—it is handed to you.”

If you portray the human experience with words that are honest, insightful and noble, those words will come alive and connect with your readers. If you get chills when you are writing, readers will get chills when they read. If you do this, you won’t produce a book that can be quickly forgotten; you’ll write a book that inspires creativity, a book that stays with your readers long after the last page.

I will always remember the imaginative and hilarious script to Young Frankenstein, because in the words of Dr. Fredrick Frankenstein—“It’s alive!”