Sunday, November 1, 2015

NaNo or Bust

If you’re anything like me, you attempt to do NaNo each year with all the intentions of a zealot. Passionately plotting – declaring yourself ready, willing, and able – determined beyond belief. But inevitably life gets in the way. And while the mere attempt has merit in and of itself, there’s something to be said for finishing.

As writers, we so often start new projects. Ideas are never in short supply for the creative mind. It’s the road to completion that’s paved with stumbling blocks, distractions (hello, Internet), and the lure of moving on to the next best thing.

Sure, there are times when an idea just doesn’t have the legs to go the distance, (good, luck NYC Marathon runners) but most of the time we surrender just before the magic is about to happen. This is my attempt to get out of my own way, to get out of my head, and jump into the plot.

Hey, a bad novel is still a novel. Plus, as the saying goes…you can edit bad writing but you can’t edit what’s not there.

So I’ve decided to blog this journey, mostly to force myself to face the page no matter what’s going on. This will be my mirror, my chronical of NaNo, and in the midst of the chaos I hope to learn more about my own writing habits.

After all, the creative life is a process… and revisions are part of the plan. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

When the Wind Blows

            It took me two solid years to write this book. This book is a part of me. I am still in love with the characters and the world I’ve created and I know a series has been born. Yet, I can’t seem to silence the nagging voices beckoning me to edit, restructure, and refocus the whole darn thing.
            I try to work on new projects, I outline, brainstorm and whatnot…but those nagging voices won’t let me move on.
            And so I postulate, procrastinate, and pontificate. Could my story still need work and if so, does that mean the first draft must be scrapped altogether?
            Either way, it’s painfully clear that something must be done in order for me to move forward and sitting here wondering is surely not helping. The time for action is always now. It’s like my father always says, “Do something, even if it’s wrong.”
            So I think maybe I will rework the outline, call a friend for support, or make another cup of coffee before acknowledging the daunting reality I’m facing. But the snow is blowing around like a frozen desert sandstorm and the dog needs to go outside. So I bundle up and brave the elements and the world just keeps on spinning.
            It’s cold in the northeast, but that’s certainly not news. Merlin (my dog) is interested in frolicking a bit before getting down to business and that gives me some time to admire the snow covered trees in the woods behind my house as they creak with each powerful gust of wind.
Sounding as if the bark is screaming, the trees are painfully weathering the storm. But they don’t break, not entirely. A dead branch falls here, a snapping twig there, and they seem to be reaching even higher than before. A towering pine faces the wind as if to say, “Let’s dance.” And then it hits me…the wind isn’t trying to destroy these trees at all; it’s only doing the job of making them stronger.
            Likewise, needing to edit this draft does not mean I’m going to destroy my story. It merely signifies that a stronger one is ready to be carved from the marble before me. The wind edits the forest by ripping dead branches from the trees so they can flourish in the spring. And I realize that I must edit like the wind, pulling back the dead weight, so the words can thrive.
Once again, life and writing seem to be intermingling teaching me lessons. Not everything we lose is a loss and sometimes it’s necessary for growth.

            How do you approach the editing process? Do you take it as personally as I do or are you able to separate yourself from the creation and cut away? 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Otherness: The Creative Force

For the last few days I’ve been meditating on Ernest Hemingway’s notion that we have to “write hard and clear about what hurts.” Initially, this quote puzzled me because most sane people go out of their way to avoid what hurts. But writers are different because we try to use the pain as a catalyst to mirror back the beauty in suffering. Or, at least that’s what I tell myself when I’m digging around in my brain for a new story idea.
After finishing my first novel in 2014, I’ve spent the last few months trying to replenish my creative well by hiding from what hurts. I started thinking that our old pal Ernie might have been wrong. After all, why would anyone willingly submerge themselves into a river of pain? It seems every nightly news broadcast is hell-bent on highlighting the suffering and that has yet to inspire me. But, isn’t that the whole deal? Isn’t that why we’ve elected to participate in this journey?
Writing is all about exploring the one thing connecting us all: the shared human experience. For me, writing is about digging a bit deeper into the spiritual nature of that experience and trying to make sense of it all. As seekers we spend so much of our time, money, and effort thinking about Otherness. One of the reasons writing is so important is because it helps us to share in our Otherness by acknowledging the many ‘other’ things we can’t define, understand, or explain.
I don’t want to be afraid of writing “hard and clear about what hurts” because I know that’s the best way to creatively express something worthwhile. There’s responsibility in attempting to share our madness and it’s this: if we really know, if we understand what it means to share this human experience, then we have to forgive ourselves for the madness, we have to love our enemies, and most of all …we have to stop charging, punishing, excluding, judging, and destroying each other.
And most would ask who is capable of such Love? Certainly, religion, government, and media want you to doubt, draw lines, and rely on payment for progression. I don’t yet love my enemies, I still judge the wrong, and I have trouble understanding anyone who doesn’t want the best for me, you, this world, or themselves but I’m working on it and I hope you will too.

Because, in the end, fear can only destroy…it won’t create anything. Legacies are built on Love because Love is a creative force. It’s what Hemingway’s words mean to me, it’s what we need to reach for and share in order for any of this to survive.

And that’s the hard, clear truth I’m going to write about today.