Conor Cawley: When You Have a Novel Stuck in Your Head

The creative process is a long and arduous one. It takes months, sometimes even years for ideas to take the shape of anything real. You contemplate and consider, ponder and pontificate, wonder and wait for that perfect moment of inspiration when you can take all the characters, tones, situations, circumstances and other novel ideas and give them life. But until then, you just have a novel stuck inside your head.

When you have a novel stuck in your head, it doesn’t go away. It easy to forget a password or a phone number or even someone’s name. But when characters have problems and situations have climaxes, there is no burying it in the back of your mind. Your thoughts get pushed out while these stories push through to make sure your focus is on the imaginary rather than reality.

When you have a novel stuck in your head, your memories seem boring. Real life just can’t keep up with the endless musing of an uncaged mind. Your protagonist could fly, you don’t know. The world could be without gravity, you haven’t decided. The novel’s world is your oyster and you haven’t even cracked it open.

When you have a novel stuck in your head, you use it to help you fall asleep. You let the worries of work and play fall off your shoulders as your ideas form faster than you can write them down. The now familiar characters make de-stressing easy with their colloquial greetings and their recognizable tones.

When you have a novel stuck in your head, it doesn’t want to come out. Putting it to paper makes them seem rigid and formulaic. Their tone is no longer whimsical, there voice is no longer unique, their actions are routine, boring and bleak.

But when you have a novel stuck in your head, it has to come out. Because when it’s in your head, it can only go so far. No one can grow, no one can change, no one can fulfill the destiny given to them by my overactive imagination.

This piece brought to you by my inability to start writing a novel. Hope this helps.

Photo: Flickr / Thanakrit Gu


  1. This is so true. I have a book stuck in my head too. I have a title for it, I have my characters laid out too and whenever I look at the draft, I just tell myself “This is gonna be a great book.” However, it doesn’t get past that….

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