(No, not the Australian Aboriginal concept of the after life, well, more like before and after life, but bonus points to you if that’s where your mind went. I like the way you think.)
No, this is a post about The Writing Life.
The more experienced writers out there know this one already. I give you leave to go. Really, shoo. I’m talking to the newer initiates here. Ok, stay if you want. I think you’re nifty too.
Most of even the novice writers out there know the concept of writing organization styles. There are Plotters – ie: people who write outlines. There are Pantsers – ie: people who just sit down to write, a la’ ‘flying by the seat of their pants’. And I’m told there is a fabled hybrid class that does something like both. Whereas I’m certain that’s possible, I honestly have no idea how they do it. They’re like unicorns, magical, elusive, and maybe requiring a virgin in white to track down?
Me? I’m a Pantser.
I sit down to write. And then I keep writing.
I have a notepad, sometimes more than one, on which to – strangely – write notes. But I really don’t plot. As close as I get to plotting is that I generally know the emotional arc of whatever I’m working on. But knowing how I want it to feel isn’t the same thing as knowing where the damn thing is going, narrative-wise.
As with anything that vaguely resembles writing advice, especially coming from me, keep in mind that I’m talking about my process. Your mileage may vary.
In fact, it should, in some degree or many.
Part of the whole writing thing is learning your own process; what works for you.
Grammar is great, but it can be fixed in post. Process is how you get something that may or may not need fixing in the first place.
A good part of your novice writing time will be spent fumbling around until you find what works for you.
Embrace that. It’ll do you good service from then on.
Me, I start with the sounds of the words.
Ideas are great, and technically they come first, even before emotions, but ideas aren’t stories. Ideas are the compost from which stories grow. The top soil that feeds them.
I come from a poetry writing background. (I still write poetry, but I used to exclusively write and perform poetry.)
So, for me, it’s the sound and rhythm of the thing. A character’s thoughts. An odd description. Some piece of narration that says, “Ok bub, hold on, ’cause here. We. Go.”
That’s where I get moving on a project.
But, because I do not sit and plot out the entire thing – hey, I like to discover a story too – sometimes I happen across a place in the work where I just do not fucking know what happens next.
Know your characters and situations as well as you like, but fly often enough without a compass and eventually you’ll find yourself circling the sun at high noon, wondering which direction to turn the rudder.
This is when I stop.
Ok, I mostly stop. I might keep putting words on the page, somewhere knowing that they’ll get deleted, just to keep the thing fresh in my head. But I generally stop.
And take time to dream.
It’s one of the coolest things about being a writer – even if it’s just a hobby – day dreaming.
Typically I’ll put on some kind of music that doesn’t have lyrics/ singing. I just want background noise. Maybe I’ll pick something that evokes a particular emotional state, but I don’t want to be carried away by the song, I want to have something to accompany me as I drift down my own stream of consciousness.
That’s my dream time.
Turn of the wifi on your phone. Look away from the computer screen. Try to get as free from the multitude of distractions of your daily life as possible. Stare off into space and let it happen.
Whatever it happens to be.
It is my experience that creativity can not be forced.
It can be encouraged. You can prime your environment and mind to be more conducive to creativity arising, but you can’t demand it show up.
Creativity doesn’t work for you.
It works with you. Through you. If you let it.
So, if I have any advice for the novice writers out there, other than practice your damn craft as often and as hard as you can, it is this:
Learn how to let your creativity happen.
Find out under what circumstances this weird occurrence comes into being.
This isn’t an excuse to wait for the muse or inspiration, or whatever other pretentious thing we’ve been told we should strive for.
It’s about figuring yourself out, and getting out of your own way.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment. I’ll do my best to answer them.
If you have suggestions – leave those too.
I’m always up to learn something new and interesting.
Until next time…