Sunday, January 26, 2014

I Get Ideas

Richie Narvaez Takes Helm of MWA/NY

Richie follows a truly distinguished line of New York MWA Presidents since 2000… Barry Zeman, Andy Peck, Bob Knightly, Jane Cleland, Chris Grabenstein, Alafair Burke, Rosemary Harris and Patricia King. As recent Chair of the Member Events Committee, he is familiar with what makes the wheels go round in this professional group.

A native of Brooklyn, he has worked as a journalist, teacher, and college professor. An award-winning short story writer, he brings a new and exciting voice to the organization.

Welcome to Crime Writer's Chronicle, President Narvaez!

Thelma Jacqueline Straw

I do some of my best writing in the shower. This apparently is true for many people. There are scientific reasons for this, involving dopamine, the symbolism of water, and whatever they put into Irish Spring.

But that’s not very good advice for a writer. You’ll get visited by a great new story premise, the sentence wording that’s been worrying for weeks, and plots for a trilogy — all before you’ve soaped your naughty bits. And what do you do then? Use waterproof ink or intricate soap carving. You rush out, of course, and try to get it down before it disappears, and hope that your wet hands don’t make your inspiration indecipherable.

Ideas, it seems, often sneak up on us like the Weeping Angels in Doctor Who: not when we’re looking. Like love, death, and relatives, they like to show up when we don’t expect them to. I have found myself thunderstruck by entire stories while rushing for the train, preparing to teach a class, getting a haircut. Oh, this inspiration is a lovely thing when it happens — and when I can capture that thunder. But that is only a small part of writing. For the most part, most writing is grunt work: Sit, write.

I have endeavored to be the stereotypical writer who writes in bars, notebook out, pens aplenty, awaiting the call of the Muse amidst the heady company of Jack and Daniels and Sam and Adams. But when I have tried this at my favorite bar in Manhattan — it’s called Shade, come by some Friday night and let’s hang — the next new beer often comes before the next new idea, and then after a while I’m not trying to write, I’m just trying to remember my name. Indeed, ideas are like the prettiest girls in class. They do not respond well when you throw yourselves at them.

Sit, write. The ideas may come like subway cars, late and overcrowded. But you will still appreciate them.

After that, of course. comes more work, the real craft. That sitting with your mise en place, the legal pad or at the keyboard — that is just the churning it out, the piling on of the clay, the putting on the table of all the tiny model airplane parts. All the real writing happens later, when you edit, revise add this, delete that, and make something beautiful out of that Messerschmitt.

And then is possible the time will come, a sad moment, when that miraculous idea — which encountered you in the shower, at the dentist’s, or just before you slipped into dreamland — has to be cut out because it no longer fits with the rest. Be grateful for its time with you. You’ll always have the shower.

Richie Narvaez


  1. Vladimir Nabokov used to say he got his best ideas in the bathtub.

  2. Thanks for coming by, Richie! I love your humor - and common sense philosophy... our ideas pop up at the damnedest times --- like they are imps from another planet! Look forward to your leadership of our wonderful tribe in this totally tumultuous era! tjs

  3. Nice to meet you Richie! --- Yes, ideas come in the most unexpected times and places. There does not seem to be any logic or reason for getting story lines or of meeting our next character. But then would writing be as much fun if we knew where all those ideas hung out and we could just go and pick one out?

  4. Richie, Welcome to CWC! Consider this a place where you can drop by anytime. I am among the MANY in MWA/NY who are grateful to have you at the helm!

  5. How come you don't send me anymore short stories?

    1. Yes, I owe you a new story! I've been backlogged with this book thing I'm revising.

    2. I'm teasing you, pal. You should be putting them up on Amazon, getting the big bucks.

  6. Thanks everyone for their kind comments!