“Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.” — E.L. Doctorow
If someone told me as I first started writing about nine years ago that my writing would be a never ending journey, I’m not sure I would have set out on that particular path. Granted, most people start writing for a reason, which usually includes the buzzing of character voices and ideas that won’t shut up. That was my case, and even with that warning I probably wouldn’t have had a choice in the matter. I find writing to be the only way to get the voices to shut the hell up (yeah, that makes me sound pretty certifiable huh?). But it’s the idea of the never ending that might make most people bulk, though I have learned since then that never ending can be a good thing.
When I started writing, I didn’t even know how to put a decent sentence together. Of course back then, I thought I could do at least that much, but I was young, delusional, and a little stupid. I don’t even dare look back at my writing from the very beginning because I’d cringe way too much. It was embarrassing. Really it was.
In my recent post Writing is More Thinking Than Actual Writing I talked about how important it is to do a lot of thinking before putting any idea on paper. I don’t know about you, but there are sometimes where thinking can be hard to do. So here are some ways I use to get my brain in the thinking mood….
Take a soaking bath
Play inspirational music
Take a nap
It’s really all about giving the brain a break from the hectic life schedule and immersing into an idea, letting it grow. Sometimes the idea grows like wildfire and other times the idea flounders. I have found that if I focus on a problem or idea too much that this is when it flounders the most. Sometimes just clearing the mind can make all the difference in the world. Thinking about nothing or something else can spark an explosion of thoughts on the original idea. So how do you get you mind to thinking?
What is the most frustrating part about being a writer? I don’t know about other writers, but for me its discovering a fabulous idea that I start writing on, and then part way into the story the idea fizzles, or I lose interest- So much for that fabulous idea. It gets tossed on that dusty shelf where all stories usually never get a second glance. After awhile, looking at the cluttered shelf can get more than a little depressing and I wonder, “Why can’t I finish anything? Why can’t I find a story I really want to write?”
Answer… Because I haven’t spent enough time developing any idea to the point where I can really know it to feel it inside and out, up and down, and all the way through to the deepest core of the idea.
I’ve noticed as a writer that the stories I spend more time thinking on always come out clearer and more fully formed. In fact, as a rule now I don’t even put my story to paper unless I have spent a days, weeks, or even months pondering on characters, backstory, emotional motivations, and different possible plot lines. Once I feel like I have a strong connection to the idea, then I begin to write it down. The words flow and I can’t seem to write fast enough. The stories have complete structure beginning, middle, and end. The best part is I feel a much stronger connection to the characters than I ever did just plopping ideas down as soon as they are breathed life.
I recently heard a piece of advice Ray Bradury gave a fellow writer… “Writing is 99% thinking, and the rest is typing.” When I heard that quote I could only think, “Wow, if only someone had told me that years ago it would have saved me a lot of trouble.” But then I doubt I would have understood that as I do now.