Friday, April 27, 2012
Sunday, April 22, 2012
But that's the sticking point, right?
I may know that I can come back, that I can fix it all later, but sometimes it is hard to keep that in mind. At times I feel like that room in my head filled with all the junk and scrap and bits and pieces that I drag out and hammer into the shape of my stories is pitch black and I am just stumbling around in there hoping to find my way. And sometimes it feels like that's not going to happen, that I'm just stumbling around in the dark. Lost. That's scary. It threatens the whole project.
I know my first book was a struggle. I know that. Thinking back on it now, it seems like it just kind of happened. One day: Poof! Book. Like I just wrote a few chapters, I planned ahead a bit, maybe changed my mind here and there, wrote a bit more when some stuff occurred to me and then it was done. Boom.
First draft finished, easy-breezy, lemon-squeezey!
That's a lie, of course, a recollection colored by fear and doubt and probably the failings of an aging mind, but still... When you're in the middle of it all, and that second draft is so far away, it's hard to remember that the first draft is an important tool. That it's just a frame work, a map to something better. It's hard to remember that the First Draft is just that, a First Draft, one of many and that it's not done.
And honestly, barreling ahead? That can often be the fun part. What happens next? It could be anything. It could be inspiring. It could be new and brilliant and twisty and awesome. It could change everything. What happens next? It could be amazing, yeah, but that fear and doubt reminds you that it could also be terrible.
But that's the rub, right? What happens next? To find out, you have to keep going. You have to finish, even if it might get ugly.
Saturday, April 14, 2012
|Quilt by Annie Mae Young|
But even though I know that I can pretty much always be creative, there is a fear I'm currently living within.
For now, I have done what I can do on my current WIP. Uncountable drafts. Trimmed 40,000 words. With my fellow Scribblerati's help, grown tremendously as a writer. (Nestled within my pile of scratch paper are pages from my early drafts of Once We Were Bears. When one surfaces to the top? Oh, how I cringe, reading my first, floundering attempts at writing.) I am proud of what I've done. Even if I never see Beryl in print, writing her into existence as kept me more sane, more happy than I would have been without her. And I know I'll always be proud of what I've accomplished - I wrote a book. I freakin' wrote a goddamn book! Not everyone can say that.
But what if this is it? I've tried my hand that this craft, loved doing it, got a finished product, but what if that well's dry now and it's time to move on to the next medium. My writing groupmates are inspirational with their writing down their many, many ideas for their next stories, with their being a good ways through next novels as they finish the editing on last one. Not me. I do have one idea, but the inner critic is awfully loud right now. And I don't have a flood of ideas. Just that one little drop.
I tell myself that it might just be my personality - I really like finishing something completely before I move on to the next project. But I am sensing glimmers of hope: as I've been drawing to a close with Beryl, I've noticed images floating to the surface of my consciousness. Pears fragrant in their ripeness. Tiny scrawls of writing along the curve of flower petals. A rippled pool.
How to live with fear and not be stymied by it? Well, for one, I'm gonna try my idea out on Scribblerati. And I'm gonna keep listening to the burbling until I can make out the words.
Friday, April 6, 2012
No, we’re not all outsized naked mole-rats, smelling of unwashed hair and swigging Jack Daniels while we listen to Mahler for inspiration – Telling our friends we’re writing the Great American Novel on our antique typewriter, while really we’re spending all our time anonymously posting vitriolic online diatribes about Stephenie Meyer.
That’s simply not true. I prefer Maker’s Mark.
But really, now. Not one of my fine Scribblerati friends, nor I, fit that description. Well, to my knowledge. I don’t spy on them at home, after all. (Okay, now I just got an image of a tipsy Lisa cackling maniacally while typing EDWARD SUX in all caps on some tweener website, and the image is very funny.)
But I digress.
So, yes, some of the clichés are untrue, or untrue at least for my writer friends and me. I’m sure those people exist.
But how about the old trope that once you tell someone you’re a writer, one of two questions pops out of their mouth – 1) “Where do you get all your ideas?” and 2) “You’re not going to study me and put me in your book, are you?” – I used to think this was just the silly invention of screenwriters (Like the fact that people in movies and on TV almost never say goodbye on the telephone. Go ahead, check it out. They just hang up, knowing the conversation is done. People pretty much don’t do that in real life.) – but I’ve been asked both of these things quite a few times in the last several years.
To answer them, 1) I’ve always found this question very odd. I get my ideas from my brain. Like you do. (Click here for tonal context.) I, unlike some writers, have an excess of ideas. I am an idea factory. A good, sometimes great, idea factory, if I do say so myself. It doesn’t matter, of course, unless, until I actually finish something. People don’t want to read plot pitches and descriptions of futuristic societies; they want to read completed stories.
2) I will only study you and use elements of you to create a character if you are exceedingly bizarre and/or fascinating, and if you’re asking me that question, I’m sorry, but you’re probably not. (Wow, I sounded like Jon there.) Okay, that's a little unfair, and untrue. Of course writers draw on their interactions with other human beings to write believable characters, but I, in my admittedly limited experience - let's say I've created 50 characters in my lifetime thus far - have never based a character solely on one person. (Except, perhaps historical figures. But even then you're making a lot of it up, playing a part.)
But back to a cliché that I mentioned earlier… the idea that every writer aspires to write the Great American (or Irish, or Belgian, or whathaveyou) Novel. I don’t. I don’t need to be the next William Styron or James Joyce. Okay, maybe I’d take F. Scott Fitzgerald or Kurt Vonnegut Jr., but only because I adore their writing. But I’m not them, I know I’m not them, and not only that, I don’t have a burning desire to impress the world of academia with my writing efforts, nor to go down in the annals of time as one of the greatest writers who ever lived. Sure, I want stellar reviews, and I want to share my stories with millions of people and, naturally, make a lot of money doing what I love, but mostly, all I’ve ever wanted to do is entertain the nice people. (Click here for tonal context.)
And speaking of Mr. Vonnegut, I came across this quote today.
I then thought about what…was it Neil Gaiman? said was the best piece of writing advice he could give: “Finish something.”
The first quote is freeing, and the second is both frightening for those of us who haven’t finished a novel yet, and beautiful in its simplicity. Stop fretting over perfection, or failure. Finish it, finish it, finish it. Another cliché about aspiring novelists – we're forever working on that first novel, and never completing it.
For today, I’d like to combine those two ideas, and task myself to finish something creative that is NOT my novel. Finishing an artistic endeavor is immensely satisfying, and I think it fuels us creatively in all areas. A novel takes so long to write, that that satisfaction can only be taken in small doses (I finished this chapter! I finished this draft!), and as for the final word of the final page of the final draft? It takes years of mostly solitary effort. So, for today, I say finish a sewing project, a painting, a poem, a clay model, practice a monologue, do something, FINISH something artistic – no matter how good or how lousy it is, as Mr. Vonnegut would advise. Who's with me?
(As for me, I’m going to pounce on my Wonder Woman crop art. My progress thus far. Her skin, if you're wondering, is quinoa.)