Liz Gilbert tells a wonderful story about how an idea for a novel jumped from her to Ann Patchett when Patchett kissed her on the mouth.
Gilbert’s book was about a Minnesota spinster whose boss (with whom she is secretly in love) sends her to the Amazon jungle and adventure ensues. Gilbert had received an advance for the book and started writing it. Then, she says, life pulled her in another direction and she put the novel aside for several years. When she came back to it, its life force energy was gone, and she no longer felt any juice to write it.
In the meantime, she and Ann Patchett became friends. At their first meeting, they kissed. Some time later, Patchett told Gilbert about the novel she was writing: about a Minnesota spinster sent to the Amazon jungle by her boss, who is her secret lover.
Gilbert says, “It was exactly the same story! And then we did that thing pregnant women do where they count backward to figure out when conception occurred … we did the math, and it really was at the same time I lost mine that she got hers.”
The two writers like to think the idea jumped from Gilbert’s mind to Patchett’s when they kissed. Gilbert says,
That’s our magical thinking around it. There is no explanation for that. Other than the one I’ve always abided by, which is that ideas are conscious and living, and they have will, and they have great desire to be made, and they spin through the cosmos looking for human collaborators.
I’ve written about this notion before, how ideas sometimes fall from the sky, and you’d better have your hands out, ready to catch them.
Julia Cameron tells about how she came to teach The Artist’s Way: “One minute I was walking in the West Village on a cobblestone street with beautiful afternoon light. The next minute I suddenly knew that I should be teaching people, groups of people, how to unblock. Maybe it was a wish exhaled on somebody else’s walk.”
What I love about Cameron’s story, and Gilbert’s, is the timing. Two people pass on a busy street. One exhales a wish, one breathes it in. A book plot jumps from mouth to mouth on a kiss.
Smithers poet Sheila Peters knows about this phenomenon, too:
Sheila Peters, the weather from the west, Creekstone Press, 2007