Which is more valuable to the writer: the bolt from the blue, or the solution gained by slow and patient persistence?

Am I a total cop-out scum if I say “both”?

We wait for the bolt. Hope for it. Try to “Ohm” it into existence. We take walks and bathroom breaks hoping to invite it closer. Sometimes, it just ain’t there.

Sometimes, perhaps more often, we are obliged to work harder to discover the charmed passage…a process akin to chipping away at a rock with a plastic spoon, trying to find the diamond we’re certain is inside. And sometimes, it just isn’t there. At least, not until the next session.

I am in chipping away mode, right now: a critical emotional progression that has the rest of the book standing on its shoulders. If I succeed, the reader will be swept into the ending of the book with an inescapable logic. If not, it will be merely “what the hell was that?” I’ve been over the same passage for a week, now–from a wild assemblage of notes to a tentative structure to a richer shape…and, eventually, to the “whoa” I’m hoping for. It’s work. But it has worked before.

I prefer the bolt. I prefer it when the passage wakes me in the middle of the night, staggering me with its rightness, its grace of language, its compelling emotional tone. But I can’t count on that happening. I must not. When it does, it’s like a birthday in the brain, with a present that unwraps itself and offers itself to endless delight. The rest is slogging. But the result, with luck and patience and maybe skill, will turn out the same way.

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