Friday, February 5, 2016

To be a writer

So my initial intent for starting a blog was to create a social platform for myself as a writer. There's a lot of discussions about what a writer should or shouldn't have on their blog. I feel like there's tons of blogs with advice about writing and informational posts on writing. I don't have the credentials or the skills to feel like I can create "writing posts" that can compete with what's out there.

In order to(hopefully) write a blog that intrigues people, I decided to just write whatever strikes me. This means I have posts about my life and a lot of times they won't have anything to do with writing. I think writers are just like any other person out there. We have lives that extend past our writing. Maybe its a job, friends, family, other hobbies, but we all have things that fill up our days.

Some people are organized writers, others are scattered. Some have lots of time to write, or more accurately some make the time to write a lot. And then others don't. We all have the same amount of time in our day, we just split it up differently. I believe most people could find time to write more if they wanted. Like myself, I write at night after everyone is in bed until I get too tired myself and go to bed. That span of time is about 11pm - 1am. I'm not always writing that entire time and I don't always stay up for that length of time.

As far as writers go, I'm slow, very slow. But that's okay, that's what I've made time for and it works for me.

While most of my posts probably won't be about writing, writing is still a part of my life and on occasion I do want to post about it. They probably won't be the educational posts that some people create(as I said, I'm not qualified to write anything that can top what's out there), but I hope they'll be interesting all the same.

If someone asked me how long I've been a writer I wouldn't know quite how to answer. I suppose it all depends on a person's definition of "a writer".

To answer as best I can, I must take you back in time. A long, long time ago. In a gala-- wait, wrong story.

But yes, I started writing at a young age. I would most accurately have described myself as a dreamer for most of my life, rather than a writer. I loved to invent imaginary worlds and stories. I liked inventing games where my siblings and I would be in an imaginary world. We'd be wolves, or Indians, or orphans, or fairies, or whatever struck my fancy(I say my because I was usually the jerk dragging them around). Boxcar children, we'd pretend we lived in a boxcar.

My first stories that I recall are stored somewhere in one of my packrat boxes. My grandmother took them and got them printed and laminated as little books. One is about a turtle family where every turtle's name starts with "t".

For the most part my dreaming and creating never reached paper. I'd come up with stuff faster than I wanted to take the time to write it down. Thinking is so much faster than writing. I liked writing, but I never wanted to slow down long enough to do it.

At one point I'd created two extensive "worlds" that I'd spent enough time in that I realized they had the perfect elements to be turned into novels. I had organized tons of details in various notebooks. Characters, places, plot lines, worldbuilding, etc. I knew every character inside and out. I knew how the story went from start to finish.

I tried to write both "series" and failed. I couldn't even finish a single chapter of either series. I would try and fail, over and over and over. It was disheartening and I realized the stories I was so passionate about might never exist for anyone but me.

The problem was fairly simple. I figured that out right away, but it was a problem I wasn't sure I could fix.

I'd figured out every element of my story to the point where I could play it like a movie in my mind. It was perfect. But what I was putting on paper was not. And I HATED it. I hated the rubbish I was staring at because it wasn't anywhere close to my perfect vision. I couldn't move forward when I couldn't even stand what I had written.

Eventually I gave up. Off and on over the years I'd try again, but the same thing would happen. I couldn't "forget" my perfect idea. I couldn't just "not recall" the details. And as long as I could remember how the story should look, I couldn't tolerate it looking anything but that way.

Fast forward to 2013. Something happened to make me consider writing again. But this time was different. For one, I wasn't that serious about it. I mean, come on, I'd failed so many times before(not even finishing a chapter is pretty bad) that it would've been ridiculous to take this attempt seriously. The second thing was that since I wasn't taking this serious and it was a complete whim, I decided to write a different story than the ones I'd wanted to create.

This time, though, it worked. For the first time I actually feel like I can call myself a writer and not be a sham.

What was different? It could be as simple as I was older, but I think I can pin down some good theories as to why it worked for me this time.

- I'm a pantser, not a plotter. When I started writing in 2013, I didn't know those terms, but once I did I was like, "yes, that's me. I'm a pantser." This means I make stuff up as I go along and like a blindfolded baby giraffe, I fumble around and somehow find my way.

When I'd tried to plan out an entire story I grew frustrated when the product didn't match my vision. When I make it up as I go there's no expectation. I don't look at what I write and think "this isn't like the picture I imagined" because there is no picture I'm following. I no longer feel like I'm failing.

That doesn't mean that I'm churning out the perfect first draft. It's just I'm putting out a first draft that I don't hate so bad that I quit.

- Support. I have support like I've never had before. My husband has been amazing in encouraging to me write and getting equally excited as I've neared publishing. After meeting several amazing people in an online writing community, I started a small group to make it easier to work with these people(and so they could meet each other).

The group is a bit larger now! But it's been beneficial for me, and I hope for others as well. Knowing that people are there to encourage me, brainstorm with me, and help me improve is a great motivator. Not to mention knowing that people are enjoying my work helps me feel like I'm providing a good story.

- An environment geared towards learning. With my online group I have people from all over that bring a vast array of skills. People who've helped me grow and become a better writer. My grammar will always be a nightmare, but it's improved miles in the past year and a half. I've learned what works, what doesn't, when I'm on the right path, and when I've "lost the plot".

Overall I feel more confident in my abilities.  I'm no longer just a dreamer; I'm a writer. I have confidence that I can not just create an interesting story, but write a cohesive novel.

I went from not being able to get past chapter one, to completing a novel. I'll be publishing my first book this spring and I hope to have more in the future.

I'll try and do another post soon on my novel and how I came up with the idea. What inspired me to start again and when I realized it was more than just a whim.

4 comments:

  1. Congrats on your first writing post :)

    I've decided that the pantser-plotter thing is more of a spectrum than two mutually exclusive styles. When I first started writing I thought I was a plotter because I wrote a handful of dot points down. I've since learnt that serious plotters do detailed outlines, and I realised I'm somewhere in between the two.

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    1. Oh definitely. I think most people are some combination in between. It's important for each writer to see which method works for them(in any aspect of writing). Some people work better with deadlines or goals, others don't.

      I love talking with other writers about their writing method because it varies so much from person to person.

      I think I'm very much a pantser with no plotting tendencies. I write a 2 sentence bit about my general idea and then start writing. I don't know where I'm going and just hope I end up somewhere interesting.

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  2. I'd figured out every element of my story to the point where I could play it like a movie in my mind. It was perfect. But what I was putting on paper was not. And I HATED it. I hated the rubbish I was staring at because it wasn't anywhere close to my perfect vision. I couldn't move forward when I couldn't even stand what I had written."

    This made me think of Ira Glass's take on this. I always remember it when I'm feeling frustrated that I'm not good enough:

    https://youtu.be/PbC4gqZGPSY

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    1. Yes, and there were times even after I'd started writing and was making good progress that I'd hit a difficult spot and I HAD to set a goal for myself.

      I had some patches were I set a 100 word a day goal just to push through those difficult bits. Because sometimes you just have to bulldoze through until it gets easier again. You can always come back later and pound some sense into the patches you forced!

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