Stephen King uses a wonderful metaphor to describe the creative process: he shows up every day to write, but he lets the “boys in the basement” do the heavy creative lifting. The boys solve the hard problems—characters who won’t behave, endings that don’t resolve. He trusts those guys, doesn’t worry too much when he loses a story thread, confident that if he walks away, they will fix it. Meanwhile he’s making dinner, or playing the guitar, or sleeping. You can tell from the way he talks about writing that it’s true—his deep unconscious, the mysterious place where ideas spring up, is populated by sturdy guys with huge biceps who hammer away, all the time. They sit down together at the end of the day and drink beer, don’t get their feelings hurt and don’t hold grudges. I liked that idea so much I tried it on—I could really use a reliable team to help me with my writing. Possibly because I’m a woman, I discovered I couldn’t convince a work crew, or even a convivial poker game, to take up residence in my imagination. But it got me thinking. If I don’t have boys down there, hammering away at my stories, what do I have? Birds, maybe? At first that idea seemed disappointing—birds aren’t very strong. In fact, boys sometimes make slingshots and fire rocks at them, for sport. But they do build astonishing nests. They find things, too, stuff that you can’t imagine, and would never expect– an old gym sock, woven delicately into something that looks like a long-looped Dr. Seuss shopping bag. Maybe I do have birds. Fragile, flighty, skittish, slightly mysterious to me. I have to leave them crumbs, and be patient. Too much noise sends them scattering.