A Little Progress Never Hurts
Posted on July 24, 2012
I can’t remember where I originally saw this picture, but it was probably somewhere on one of those encouragement posters you see. You know the ones that tell you though the road may be long, and though you feel lost to keep going? Sometimes I just want to jump inside one of those posters and run off into the unknown – maybe then I think I’ll find out where my story is supposed to go.
This week I’m learning to appreciate glimpses instead of focusing on entire chapters of progress. I consider myself to be an instrument through which my characters can tell the story. When I think too hard and try to control things we end up off course. Residency is an eye-opening experience, and not for the faint at heart or those with an iron grip on their stories, but it does not all end there. So far I have gotten a lot out of the two residencies I’ve attended at MSU. However, usually about a week or so afterwards I find myself clogged as if someone pulled open the top of my head and stuffed wads of Viva or rolls of three-ply toilet paper inside. Everything is all fuzzy, clouded and staunched. For lack of a better term – I get creatively constipated trying so hard to remember what I learned, weed through workshop suggestions about my story, and meet deadlines.
Since I’m still new at all this, I feel comfortable sharing with you what I find helps me if your creativity is ever backed up. Yes, I’m going to give you another list.
TIPS TO CURE AFTER-RESIDENCY CONSTIPATION
1. Realize that residency is one of those take what you need- leave the rest type of things. The program is there to help you – not remold you. If your writing was really that crappy in the beginning you wouldn’t have been accepted. These people see potential in you, so stop whining about what you could have or should have done during residency, and now do what you do best – Write!
2. Every person is different so every person writes differently. Not everyone can whip out something spectacular in 2, 4 or even 10 minutes so give yourself a break. Maybe you are the kind of writer whose stuff tastes better once it has had a chance to simmer. Work with what you have and expand upon it. Be yourself and embrace that which distinguishes you from everyone else.
3. Creativity is not a faucet and should not be treated as such. Allow yourself to do what writers do best: dream big dreams, hope for what is utterly impossible, make up ridiculous things, and allow your characters to have a little freedom. Form is important – yes, but don’t get so caught up in form that you choke on it. Most importantly your job as a writer is to tell the story, so stop worrying about being grammatically correct, varying sentence lengths or if you are telling too much instead of showing (I promise you can fix it all later). The point is if you suffocate the creative voice beneath layers of format you will never tell the story and it will die. Just write it down already and fix it later.
4. Stop trying to be a writer and just write. In reality, the ones who came before us wrote where they could, sometimes in uncomfortable surroundings like bathrooms and laundry rooms. Stop imagining there is a special place, desk, chair or environment that will improve things. Sure it would be nice, and maybe after you sell several books you can get that happy place, but in the meantime work with what you have. If there is something good there location won’t prevent it from being shown.
Needless to say I’ve made a little progress. I’ve almost finished (for now) In Pieces, but trust me I’ll probably do more to it later. it is at least to the point where I can submit it or get feedback. I don’t know if it will ever go anywhere, but just completing or getting close to completion with that piece is progress and I’ll take it. Last night I was playing with the novel I’m working on and had a breakthrough about a few of the characters. I say “playing with” because unless I’m actually writing or revising I’m just tossing thoughts around in my head and listening to my characters.
I’d been wanting to give more depth to Jaxon, my male major character, but have been dragging my feet, unsure of who I wanted him to be. He has come a long way, but something was missing. Yesterday I saw this guy on my way out of the grocery store. He had beautiful eyes and held the door open for me. I couldn’t stop thinking about him, and realized later that he was my Jaxon. I’m such a visual person maybe that was the problem before why there was a void. I now can see where I want to go with him, which opens my mind up to other aspects of the story.
I also did some soul searching about Austyn and Macey. Since I’m working with three major characters I sometimes get lost in the making-it-all-fit nightmare. Last night I saw them finally for the individuals they are, which made it easier to build the story into one where it fits – if I want it to. Austyn’s character seemed to be missing something as well. I didn’t want her to come off as a wuss, or a witch or too crazy or too perfect. So it was a challenge since I like all my characters to be a little quirky. I found a new beginning for her, and now the old one is in the middle. I can also see her ending and so far like the way it is heading. Macey’s character lacked purpose, so I gave her conflict a background, which broadened the role of another character. Needless to say the ship is once again moving after being trapped on land for some time.
I’ve got this title in my head for something else. Something different. When I get a minute I might play with it in short story form and see how it develops. The criminology I’m studying has been planting some seeds and I’d like to at least try it. There is a story there. I can partially see it, but have a long way to go.
The last time we spoke I said I’d post a picture link for my travels. It is a constant work in progress, but I’ve uploaded some pictures from both residencies, the move from Texas to Tennessee, some pieces of home and even my trip to Baltimore for a job interview that went nowhere. I plan to be doing a lot more traveling, hopefully attending writing conferences and wherever else the road takes me. Here’s the link. I hope you enjoy my travels http://photobucket.com/thenexthundredmiles
Before I go I’d love to hear your stories about being creatively constipated or anything else you’d like to share with me. I feel like we’re in this together and can’t thank you enough for your support.