The bolt of fire hit me in late November. I was driving down a rural road in Texas, because driving had always helped me clear my mind, and I was so agitated that the veins in my arm extended like rivers on an atlas, and my knuckles were white on the wheel. The world seemed to mock my tense temperament. The sky was permeated with angry clouds that threatened the beginnings of a brutal thunderstorm. And still, so focused I was on my own broodiness, that I was wholly unprepared for when the sky split open.
An orange bolt of lightning shattered in front of me, gushing light onto my dashboard, the road, the dark country. I slammed my brakes in surprise and then sat there motionless, gaping at what had just been lit up before me.
There was a cabin. Or at least the remnants of one; dirty and tattered, looking utterly undeserving of such a grand and spectacular introduction. But for me, what was there was an epiphany. It was my saving grace.
Before this experience, writing had seemed to have gotten the best of me. I’d been struggling to think of a good story for the last five months. By now I had my characters properly fleshed out, but I just could not think of an intriguing plot. I would brainstorm constantly, and then write for hours on end, but my story was going nowhere. My words were dry and meaningless, my storyline superficial. My creative animal seemed to have curled up, withered, and died, during the time that I needed it the most. Shattered and overwhelmed, I developed intense anxiety.
But seeing that cabin, under the flash of lightning in that fleeting moment, made all my stresses over the last five months dissolve. I had it right then and there. My story idea.
I used to look back on this moment and think it was unjust, that so many sleepless nights, so many hours spent toiling away could be surpassed by one lucky, illuminating moment. But now I realize that I wouldn’t have been hit with a bolt of fire if I hadn’t been actively working.
Ideas need to be practiced, prepared, pursued. Not all strenuous efforts will seem to bring about a work of brilliance. But they don’t necessarily go away. Sometimes they float around for a bit, unseen but existent, waiting for that time when the sky will split open, and a swift, enlightening blast from the heavens will come down and make everything clear.
I turned off my car, and sat still as all the right ideas flooded through my mind. I sat there for a long time. My hands trembled. My hair stood on end. Finally, I put the car into ignition, and took off.