Monday, October 4, 2010

The Birth of a Writer

I want to write, but there are countless reasons why I don't. I don't have the time. I've got nothing to say that will be of interest to anybody. I'm afraid. We've all been there, doubting and second-guessing ourselves, until we finally sit down to do it. It might have been easy once you got going, there may have been a pool of blood and sweat soaking into the carpet around your desk, but you did it. And that work that you completed? You were so proud of it! Was it any good? Probably not, but at the time it didn't matter. You did it, and that's what counts.

Recently I mentioned the fact that I belong to a number of Yahoo groups. In one of these groups there has been a discussion of "Plot vs 'Pantsing'", which prompted one of the members to stop wanting and start doing. I asked her to share her feelings as she sat down to start her journey. Here, in her own words, she recounts the start of her journey.

"I was asked to share how it felt to sit down and start writing — seriously writing. I have dreamed of being an author for as long as I can remember, but never applied myself. I don’t think I ever gave it much thought — writing was just a dream. And to be honest, I have rarely had a plot or set of characters come together in my head to give me the impetus — or maybe a compulsion — to write. So it was a surprise to find myself deciding to get serious with my writing about a week ago. A bunch of successful authors in a forum were discussing how they wrote. Many of them just start banging away and let the story write itself — with lots of editing and rewriting later on, of course. For some, stories are plot-driven while for others they are character-driven, but they don’t necessarily use an outline. I had always been told that in order to create a novel, one needed to outline and create the plot in advance, which to me seemed to take the fun out of the process. I had no intention of spending that much time on writing if it wasn’t going to be fun.

My experience this past week hasn’t been wonderful — I don’t have a blank page, but I don’t seem to fill pages. I’m honestly on page three of my story and I’ve given four or five hours to the project. I started out quickly enough but when I re-read the beginning, it was dead. I realized that I had been telling the story rather than showing the story so that I and others could experience the story. So I immediately went back to the first paragraph to paint pictures and events with words. It seems that I am plagued with telling rather than showing. So every time I manage to write down a paragraph, I make myself go back and fill in all the detail. Again, and again, and again, until it does have some life to it. What starts out as a paragraph ends up being two or three paragraphs (at least) when it brings the reader into the experience. One would think that as a result I would have at least eight to ten pages now due to expanding what I had originally written. Not so. Because I’m never satisfied even if I can bring the scene alive. I keep fiddling with it.

To my surprise, I suspect that maybe my BORING, dead writing is an outline. I’m wondering if it might make sense to continue on with the boring writing and fill it in later with descriptions of the characters and events that bring the story to life. Because I’m getting nowhere fast. If I can complete the work, whether I consider it an outline or not, I will have something that I can edit or change as I like. My current process is clearly not working. I am going over everything with such a fine comb that there’s no room for creativity to exist.

As I look at my work in progress I am amazed, frustrated, amused (one has to laugh at oneself), and determined. I don’t know whether I will ever be published or whether what I write will be any good, but I intend to find out. And the surprises keep coming. I am learning about myself as well as about writing. I wonder whether I will have learned more about myself or the process of writing when I complete this work. And I am having fun. It isn’t a lighthearted kind of fun, but a deeper sense of satisfaction that comes from challenging myself to reach beyond my current boundaries. Mostly I’m excited — but the page in front of me is quite intimidating. However, I refuse to let that blank page stop me before I have discovered my true capabilities."

1 comment:

  1. We've all been there, my friend. Sometimes you just have to trust the process.