‘write about the desert’, my brain said

inspiration is strange. One day, quite recently, a story arrived in my head almost fully formed – a thing that rarely happens to me, and a joy when it does. And that story was set in the Mojave desert in California.

I have never been to California, much less the desert. I have never been to any desert. The closest I can claim is that I’ve been to Camber Sands a few times, and my grandad used to try to convince me that any film ever set in the desert was actually filmed in Camber Sands.

So the story arrives fully formed, but you have to dissect it in order to make it work on paper. There is, as yet, no computer program to transfer an entire idea into words, so inspiration – a cheerfully fickle thing – sits by and watches as you research precipitation in Death Valley, the logistics of living off the grid in the desert, what the Mojave smells and sounds like. Because of course, I don’t have a bloody clue.

And then, when all of this is done and I sit down to finally engage with the actual story? My writing brain deserts me. No pun intended. The fully-formed, exciting, beautiful story I dreamed up is a couple of stilted sentences and a hundred attempts at writing the perfect opening.

I still have no idea what the Mojave smells like.

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