Several years ago, I moved from Los Angeles to a faraway town in another state. I lived for a year in a third story loft in an industrial building on the outskirts of downtown. It had once been the Cadillac dealership. Across the street were two lovely old Victorian houses with tin roofs. One was abandoned. The other had been converted into a law office. A homeless man slept on the sidewalk in front of the law office every night. Sometimes we would pass each other as I walked around the neighborhood in the daylight hours. He avoided eye contact almost as assiduously as I did.
The industrial building formed one side of a square surrounding a little park that was one city block in size. Another side of the square was a hospital. The helicopter that took off and landed on the roof of the hospital flew about five feet above my ceiling at least ten times a day. The noise was deafening. The old Cadillac dealership would shake in its bones. I swear I could feel the wind ruffle my hair every time the chopper passed. Sirens were a constant in that neighborhood.
The population of the town was approximately 1,000,000 Jesus-lovin' homophobes and 1 Amy.
My stuff was in storage for the year, so I furnished the loft sparsely with a bed, a night stand, a rented piano and a sofa.
This is a story about the sofa.
An unremarkable brown leather couch, not quite long enough for me to sleep on, but it was on sale and JC Penney delivered it. It looked good backed up against the nearly floor to 20 foot ceiling windows that peered out on the Victorians, the bum and the big blue sky.
Many things have changed in my life since I bought that cheap (and now saggy) couch, but it has not. I still have it. And lately, whenever I sit on it, I get Very Good Ideas, like:
• A fantastic ending to the third book in the Madison McPeake series! (But Amy, you protest, you haven't written the second one yet. You really bug me sometimes, you know that?)
• A perfect bit of back story for the love interest in the next novel I plan to write!
• An awesome plot for a short story about football! (I love football!)
• Maybe even the name for that Russian villain I've been trying to come up with - Sofikov?
Okay, maybe that last one's not for sure, but the couch is really working for me these days!
Oh. Damn. I can never buy a new couch now...
Wait - this is NOT a story about the couch. This is a post about writing. And the point is that in writing, as in life, it's important to set yourself up for success. Writing a novel is not easy. In fact, I have found it to be one of the hardest things I've ever done. If something is working for you (and we shall hope it is not a self-destructive and/or illegal something, but whatevs), then take advantage of that! Be open to these occasional bursts of dumb luck/inspiration. Embrace The Couch. And write those ideas down. If the Universe has been kind enough to deliver to your brain (much like JC Penney, but without the extra charge for stairs) a good idea for your novel, be grateful and accept it! respect it! protect it! Good ideas are precious to a writer.
As you develop habits that are conducive to the writing life, recognize and cultivate those. (fortunately, I was already aces at sitting on the couch, so this is just a bonus)
And don't worry, I know it's not a magic couch. Eventually, I will get rid of it.
But I'm keeping my butt.