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Back from vacation and all I can say is “ahhhhhhhhh……….” We were in San Diego at the beach, the pool and Seaworld. It was a lovely stepping-out of the every day routine. A chance to rest my eyes by seeing the completely different palate of Southern California. And (thank you, small son!) the opportunity to catch up on some sleep.

It’s interesting what happens in your creative life when you get the chance to have breaks like this. There is renewed energy for working, of course. But sometimes there are accidental benefits too.

For example, during this vacation I had an accidental, unlooked for lightning bolt of inspiration about a project I haven’t worked in a long time. In 2004/05 I wrote a novel for kids called Broadway Alice. It takes place in the 1920’s and is about a girl who runs away from home to a theater in New York City to try to become a Broadway star.

I loved working on this manuscript. I did lots of research about the twenties to get all the period details right. I toured backstage at Seattle Rep to get the theater details down. I loved the characters I invented and how they interacted. It was all going really well.

Until I got to the ending. I realized when I tried to write the conclusion of the story that I’d written Alice into a corner I couldn’t get her out of. I couldn’t figure out how she was going to conquer that final obstacle to get the life she wanted.

After months of trying different endings, I regretfully put Broadway Alice on a shelf and she has been there every since. Until this week, while in sunny San Diego, thinking about nothing at all, a lightning bolt of accidental inspiration crashed down on me and I knew what the ending of this novel should be.

It’s crazy. I don’t believe in inspiration. I believe in hard work.

Of course, I still have to write the ending and re-write/polish the entire manuscript so it’s not as though the hard work disappeared with this flash of an idea. But I have been wondering what to make of an idea dropping out of the sky like that, especially about a project I’m not even working on at the moment.

Maybe it’s just that the idea came when it was ready to come. Maybe I needed a long break from that book before I could make any more forward progress. If nothing else, maybe it’s another lesson in the value of setting work aside to ripen; of not insisting that everything be finished on a rigid deadline.

And, of course, it’s certainly a reminder of the value of a good vacation.