Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Late-night Scolding: A Bigger Picture Moment

I've been trying to quiet my spaces, recently.  Both here, blog-wise, and in my head, I'm trying to be on-purpose calm.  It helps that I don't have as much free time as I used to: there just isn't a big chunk of the day that will hold me still in front of the computer.  So when I do get a moment of silence other than the one that comes right before I fall asleep, I'm trying not to fill it.

It's surprising to me (I don't know why; it makes perfect sense) how much creativity can flourish in that not-filled space.

I'm working on some stories that are more than short exercises.  I'm putting words in characters' mouths and filling their heads with ideas.  I'm trying so hard not to pressure myself, but I have to say: I want to write a novel.  I want to tell stories that other people will want to read, and I want to tell these stories to myself because they are sometimes as exciting as picking up a new book by a favorite author.  The fact that I want to write a book is bolstered and given wings because of the fact that I'm also having fun trying. 

So that's part of where I've been, lately, besides the usual: peeling dried grapes off the floor under the couch, combing bubblegum out of hair, filling humidifiers and dispensing allergy meds. 

But the more I write, the more it becomes clear to me that, though I enjoy it, I don't really know how to do it.  I don't have any degrees in writing.  I have never taken a creative writing course in my life.  I feel like those shouldn't preclude any true success (by which I mean the eventual finish of an entire manuscript, published or not), after all, amateurs are honest talents, too.  Writing doesn't have to be taught.   It can be felt.  I've proven this to myself time and again.  I feel it pulsing from my center.  Words and settings and conversations beg for release. 

Still, the lack of mechanical knowledge can stop me in my tracks.  Can frustrate me beyond redemption.

Last night I finished a cheap book on my Kindle that left me thinking: If SHE can write a book with this many problems -- plot, pacing, character development -- then what in the world is stopping me?  I made a quick study of all the ways I could improve upon this other author's work if she'd only passed me a copy of the book before it went to the publisher, and that made me wonder if my true calling isn't to be a writer, but an editor.  Not as glamorous, perhaps, as authoring, but editing is vital, right?  Because I do love to edit.  I love nitpicking and trying different words on for size.  I  enjoy the fixing and the smoothing. 

When I was a little girl, I rode the bus to school each day.  Forty-five minutes or more around rural routes and back roads.  The ditches were lined with weeds and grasses out of control.  I nestled into my seat, propped my knees on the back of the seat before me, and watched the ditches pass by.  And in my head, I pushed a lawn mower beside every road we traveled, clearing the rough, shoddy grass and leaving perfect strips of green neatness in my wake.  I cleaned it all up.  I made it beautiful where only tangles and brambles had been before.

So when I tried to fall asleep last night, it was with the thought that maybe I'll never be an author.  Maybe I'll just edit.

And somewhere in the back of my dulling brain after I'd closed my eyes, a few leftover thoughts flashed bright against the night, illuminating and stark:

Silly.  You can edit your OWN messy brambles.  Just keep writing.  You'll get to edit soon enough.

I slept well after that.  We'll see what tomorrow brings.




11 comments:

  1. I feel like I could have written this. I'm working on my novel too, and feeling like maybe I'll never get it done. So let me cheer you on while also vicariously cheering myself: keep going! Believe! You can do it!

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    1. Thanks, Jen! Consider this as me cheering YOU on, as well. Your writing is clean and lovely: you'll finish your novel :)

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  2. have you read "bird by bird" by anne lamott?

    keep writing, sarah.

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    1. I *have* read it, Sarah, and I'm fairly sure it was with your recommendation! It's very good! Thanks :)

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  3. I will wait with bated breath until I have your sweet novel in my greedy hands. I am not lying! My writer's crush on you has lasted many years. I can wait patiently for that book, but Sarah- THERE WILL BE A NOVEL- because you ARE already an author...

    Whom I love.

    xo!!!

    Alita

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    1. Thank you, dear Alita. You make me feel hopeful :)

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  4. When you have characters in your head and their stories to tell, you definitely need to write it, and I'm so glad you are!

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    1. Isn't that the truth?! They're insistent!

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  5. Yes, yes, yes! Keep writing! (Can I get an advance copy?)

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    1. Hmmm...let me get through a few chapters first and then I'll see how willing I am to let others see it. If anyone, though? You.

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  6. Keep writing. You are already a writer, published or not. I love your blog. :)

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Hmm...And how did that make you FEEL?