Archive for June, 2012

Dear Diary,

A quote by Anne Lamott that I read this morning got me to thinking:

“We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason why they write so little.”

…and we all know what happens when I start thinking. I think that I do not want to consider a career as a sheep lice…err…louse…err… well, yeah. I don’t want to be a louse either.

Understanding yourself is a major step in the creative process for several reasons:

  1. If you don’t understand yourself and what you’re putting into your writing, how can you expect others to have a clue what you’re trying to say? The reverse side is that an unleashed mind may believe they actually have a clue, but people just shake their heads sadly.
  1. It’ll help you connect with those who get it… which means they’ll get you, and maybe even want to hear what you have to say.
  1. It helps to keep better control of the silly little unimportant things… like writer’s block. Come on… we all know that at the very least our characters are like our own children. If you don’t know who you are, how can you expect to guide them to discovery of who they are? For that matter, each of these characters hold a little piece of ourselves and/or our insights. By understanding ourselves, we better understand them and which way they’re likely to jump… or not.

I’ve been told by several masters of prose, that you don’t truly start to define and refine yourself as a writer until you have written over 350k words. That’s a whole lot of ramble… and a whole lot of insight into who you are, reflected on the pages for the world to see. Or not… it might be better in many cases just to let those early words go into a dark box in the back of your closet to only pull out into the light when you need a little boost to remind yourself how far you’ve come. Several years after publishing, I took a look at some of those earlier words, only to find myself amazed that I’d ever considered it good writing.

Which just goes to show how little we know and understand ourselves when we’re younger… even though we think we know it all!

It may be where some of the writer’s block comes from, when you stop to think of things from that perspective. Sometimes we get caught up in trying to find the “perfect” word, or the “perfect” scene. Okay. I get it. Is it because we are afraid to just let things flow without a filter, because it might dredge up something scary from within? Are we afraid to put what we really think on paper because we’re’re bearing a part of ourselves in writing that many often mistake (even unknowingly) of personal rejection? Get over it! No writer is unleashed enough to send out a first draft for publication. Perfection is what editing is for—and not even the big boys catch all of their blemishes.

Don’t think—write! Unleash your mind and let the words fall out unfiltered. I think you might find it like your own personal shrink… and without your permission for release, ain’t no one going to see it. You might be surprised to discover who you really are.

Voices

Posted: June 21, 2012 in Creativity

Dear Diary,

The creative process can be so confusing, frustrating, and yet exhilarating… each in their own separate moments, and yet can be all at the same time. I read a quote today, pasted to Facebook:

“I know the voices aren’t real… but man, do they ever come up with some great ideas!”

So… how real are the voices? Is it a piece of my unleashed mind, or are they separate entities infiltrating my subconscious? Do they work for my benefit, or for their own agenda? I think that all of the above might hold grains of truth. But I’d never come clean to that on a psyche exam.

In a February 1976 Writer’s Digest Interview by Robert Jacobs with Ray Bradbury (R.I.P) :

“You have to live in a cloud of emotions. You rev yourself up. Give yourself time in the middle of the afternoon, or when you’re waking up early in the morning, when you’re in that kind of wonderful, euphoric state in-between, on the verge of dreams when you get a kind of nuclear bombardment of all kinds of fragments of ideas jumping around inside your head and hitting each other. They begin to fuse and detonate each other. It’s a very hard thing to describe. You don’t have any control over your mind at a time like that, and you don’t want it, see? Let it run wild! Then watch it remotely at the bottom of your skull. Look up at all those things running around wild, then jump up and run over to the typewriter and feed them in!”

I’ve always said that my best writing is in the morning when I first wake up, before/during that first cup of coffee while my brain is still in that semi-sleep state (and trust me… I’m not even fit to get behind the wheel before that 1st a.m. caffeine bump). I really don’t have control over my mind at that time. The words tumble out of my pen faster than my thoughts can process. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hit the end of my steam for the morning and go back to read what I’ve written… only to have it surprise me… characters appearing where I never planned, dialog and actions taking a different direction. The voices in my head taking over.

The sad thing is that the voices are usually right. I’ve read characters popping up where they hadn’t been planned to make an appearance, and thought… “Cool. Wish I would have thought of that.” I’ve even written entire chapters and gone back through, examining what the characters were doing and told them: “Oh no… that’s not right… you guys can’t do that. It doesn’t fit the story.” That particular manuscript I put away for a year and a half before I could pick it up again. I re-read what was written, and the light bulb went off in my head. I could see what the voices were trying to tell me, and couldn’t argue with the direction they had chosen. My editor told me it was the best thing I had written (at that point).  I took the kudos, because if I explained where t had really come from… huh… is it plagiarism if the voices do the writing for you?

Let go and let yourself write… create… whatever the process is that you are trying to accomplish. We have a tendency to think ourselves out of our own innate creativity. Shut up for a while and let the voices take over…