Friday, 31 August 2012

Chapter 11 - Write Without Fear

Again, I apologize for the long lapses between posts.  August has been filled with weddings and trips and classes and work.

Last time, I wrote about having writer's block.  And I am first to say: I was wrong (Hear that, Mom?).  Writer's block is another one of the convenient excuses I can hide behind like lack of time or inspiration.

It is fear.  Plain and simple.

Fear of ending.  Fear of not living up to the grandiose expectations that I have built up in my head for how I want my writing to be.  Fear of actually having to put this thing out into the world one day.  This is Step One.  Write it.  If I finish, it's been written, and if I have a first draft, soon I'll have a second and then people will be putting it in front of them and the judgments will come.

It is an old notion: if I don't try, I won't fail.  It is a cowardly move, for sure.  I am slowly learning to let my writing stand on its own two feet.  I can't cripple it from the get-go by never finishing.  Let me let you in on a little secret:

Everyone writes crappy first drafts.  Professionals and amateurs.  Everybody.  (And if there is someone who writes a perfect first draft, we don't talk to her anyway.)

The beauty of a first draft is no one else has to see it.  A first draft is a diary; a first draft is your dirty little secret.  You take your first draft and you mark the hell out of it.  You massacre it and the final product looks nothing like that awful piece of prose you put down.  If you're lucky, in the end, what you have is something that comes close to what you imagined in your mind.

Every writer wants to do a story justice.  But what about the characters? we moan and cry.  We aren't painting them in just the right light.  

So what?

Keep writing and it will come.  The important thing with a story is 1. starting and 2. having the courage to finish it.  I can pretty much guarantee that perfect little snippet you've written a thousand times in your head will not match up to what ends up on the paper.  The beauty is that with time and careful inspection of your work, the final product is exactly what it needs to be.

My advice?

Write.  Just write.  Don't comb over the details looking for out of place commas or even plot holes.  Put a bandaid on it and let that little bit of magic come.  Writing is something like channeling for me.  It's a groove, often like running.  You have to warm up and stretch.  You have to give yourself time to let your strides lengthen until you reach a sustainable pace.  Sure, it's painful.  You have moments where you feel like you are constantly running uphill.  You are battling to get the next word down, to find the right detail.  You have to remember no one else is watching.  If it's shit, toss it.  However, you may find that upon revision there are some good kernels in there you can tease out.

I am still guilty of these things, but I am learning to write without fear.  I had a moment the other morning while reading some of my Fiction Writing class's assigned essays and I thought, Good Lord, I am not this good.  I will never be this good.  I pulled up the manuscript and started looking at it, hating all the parts I'd once loved.

Then I made myself stop.  I'll never finish anything if I let myself be paralyzed by fear.  I may have to humble myself a little bit (I am not Hemingway and I am not Steinbeck; I don't aim to be), but that doesn't mean that what I'm doing doesn't have value.

Honor it.  Block out the negativity and let the words come.  Free write.  Associate.  Observe.  Ask questions of your characters.  Challenge them.  Make them grow.

As a young writer, it can be a lot to take in.  There are so many rules, but if you write a lot and you read a lot (the two most basic rules for becoming a successful writer), you will find that you already know a lot of them.  You see examples of what to do and what not to do every day in what you read.

Writing can be a lonely road.  You lay bare parts of yourself normally kept hidden and you offer them up to the world on a platter, asking for acceptance.  Many times, you won't get it.  But I believe with talent and perseverance, one day, it will come.


And if you can't write, like they say at NaNoWriMo, just add ninjas! 

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Chapter 10 - Writer's Block

Some say it's a myth.  Others write through it.  Mine has seasons, different phases like the moon.  I am currently in a waning phase.

I am almost done* with the first draft of Momentum.  Sara, my roommate of nearly 5 years, has moved out.  I've lost the boy.  I'm losing money.  I am fighting to be even considered for writing classes.

I have a lot of empty space and a lot of echoes to contend with right now.  Writing has been like bashing my head repeatedly against a wall.

Not the right tone.  Not the same magic vein I tapped into before.  Inspiration has been fleeting and I've grasped at the little wisps of it like I used to chase after lightning bugs as a kid.

It's also summer and the story's climax odds with pool days and sunshine.  I have to get dark.  I have to walk in rainstorms (literally) just to feel the way I need to.  Thankfully, fall is coming!  In high school, my friends and I called it the Autumn Effect.  It is the casual winding down of summer, the installation of the school year routine.  Back to the grind.  The days grow shorter and the nights cooler. Suddenly, it's easier to be sad.  More acceptable.

I have finished a manuscript before.  It is sitting beside me right now gathering dust, waiting for the right time.  I remember the exact day I finished.  It was in April and I was hunched over solo at a table meant for two in those Starbucks they put in Barnes and Noble.  Apparently, books and coffee go together.  I remember typing the last sentence and I, appropriately, announced that little victorious word count on my Facebook status.  Fast forward two years and it doesn't matter much how my heart pounded in my chest, shooting my blood through with adrenaline (I had done it!  I finished something!).  Not much came from it.

Maybe that's what I'm afraid of, why I feel a brick wall when I try to finish.  I know where to go and slowly, I have figured out how to get there.  I just can't start moving.  I trip, sprint a hundred feet, back track, edit, stumble, and finally stop.

I am not giving up though.  I suppose that is growth.  My problem used to be I would never finish.  As soon as things got rocky, I would let whatever project I was working on putter out and instead go with the lightning strike of inspiration.  I'd answer the seductive call of the next best thing.

I am not done yet.  This story isn't done yet.  It is far from perfect and it deserves all of me.  So that is what I will give it.


*'Done' is a relative term.  A first draft is always awful and while I have combed out the tangles of the first few chapters (when I really should be ignoring my inner editor and simply writing), the rest is, for lack of a better term, a hot mess.  Cheers!