Monday, April 2, 2007

The Fire Within

Penny asked a very good question on the last post. First let me offer apologies for being late on this blog. I had to do back-to-back out of town trips in March and of course caught a bad cold from it, plus had to finish revisions on two books, not to mention numerous other tasks. I'm slowly catching up to myself--I'm only a few days behind schedule now, very exciting!!

All that is relevant to my post here. Penny asked how you keep writing through times of personal stress and life-changing events. Some writers tell me it's easy to write when their lives are stressful, because writing is a therapeutic escape for them. For me, on the other hand, personal and family troubles tend to intrude on the creative process and make focusing difficult.

I write best when times are peaceful and even when I’m a little bit bored—my stories are sure to be more interesting than my own life!

But sometimes you need or want to write (in my case, I often have a tight schedule) when there are stressful or even traumatic happenings in your own life. What do you do?

That's when I look for what I call "The Fire." There is s place deep inside you that no one--not family, or friends, or spouse, or your mother--can ever touch. It is the essence of you. It's what gives you your strange, unusual, or meaningful dreams, what gives you inspriation. The Fire is what gets that book out of you, what makes that story yours and no one else's.

How do you find and touch that Fire? It's not easy (of course not!). What I do is sit down and write rather mindlessly. I don't try to be good. I do what I heard from another writer about ten years ago: Allow yourself to be bad.

Just put words down that get your characters from A to B. If nothing exciting is happening in one section of the story, skip to a section where it is interesting.


No one ever needs to see it. This is you telling the story of your heart, typing until 400 pages are filled. This story belongs to you and you alone, not to critiquers or editors or the rest of the world. No one can tell you it's wrong.

If you think it's crud, no matter, you have plenty of opportunity to fix it before you send it to an editor or a contest or even your critique partner. And who knows, you might not ever want to show this story to anyone! It's perfectly ok to write a novel just to write it, just for yourself--to test your boundaries, to let go in a world all your own, to try something new.

The business of publishing books and the art of writing books are two entirely different things--always remember that.

Back to The Fire:

While you are sitting there typing mindlessly (500 words a day or 5000 words a day, it doesn't matter), the Fire will happen. When you are least looking for it, suddenly there is a spark deep inside you from that place no one knows but you. You will feel it--the excitement, the flush, the sudden light-bulb coming on--you inside your story saying: This is what I mean! When that happens, just go with it. Write. Free flow. Let it happen.

I guarantee one of two things: The Fire will either produce your very best prose writing, or it will produce your very worst. That doesn't matter. If it's the best prose, cool. If it's the worst, you can fix it--what came out of you is the heart of the story; it doesn't matter if your sentences are clunky. Clunky sentences are easy to fix. Because even if you have to polish up the words, you've found the essence of the story and dragged it onto your canvas.

I hope this makes sense. I really does happen, even when you're sick of the story, bored with your characters, and upset about something in your personal life.

Train yourself to sit and write a set amount every day (500 words, 1000 words, five pages, whatever), no matter how you feel (upset, tired, bored, angry, etc.) It doesn't matter whether the writing your sessions produce is good or not--any little amount will move you forward to the end.

Don't wait for The Fire to write--just write. It's when you are loosened up and letting it happen that The Fire will come. There's nothing quite like it.

1 comment:

Jen said...

Really great advice! I find "The Fire" is true of anything creative. When you're bored or your focus just isn't there, and you want to work on something, whether writing, crafting, painting, or whatever, sometimes you just have to start, and after a while, everything falls into place.