Sunday Scribbling: Writing Exorcism
I admit it. I am obsessed with writing. Every detail. Writing books are like magic beans—I keep reading and buying them in the hopes that eventually, I'll be able to grow a Novel Beanstalk. Someday, I'll write up a catalog of every writing book I own, for your amazement and (it's OK, you can admit it) envy.
For years, I tried to deny my desire to write. It was almost too innate—too predetermined. I wanted to go to college and discover a hidden talent, something to change my destiny. And I tried. Photography. Music. Media. Art. Dance. I had fun, sure, none of those forms were really me. I still longed to write above all things. I just didn't think I really could. I loved books so passionately, I could never do them justice. I felt like I was cursed with just enough talent to understand the stories I loved so much, but not enough to create any myself.
Despite my wholesale ingestion of every writing text I could get my hands on, I've never felt confident. Part of the problem is the books themselves, I imagine. I have a very hard time taking the templates they offer and applying them to my own work. Where are my inciting incident, my antagonist, my hero's journey? Not always sure. I am beginning to suspect that the formulas only make sense after you have written something.
But another problem is mine. I compare myself to the books, point by point, until I find a dissonance. Then I sigh and try to think of something practical to do with my life.
Well, no more. Here is my exorcism of the most destructive ideas I believe about writing. I hope that seeing them outside of my mind will show us all how ridiculous they really are. Feel free to include your own crazymaking ideas about writing. Then we'll have a big bonfire and be free to discover new, better truths.
- Whole books are out there in the ether, fully formed, waiting for me to sit and channel them into existence. They are perfect, and complete, and inevitable.
- If I'm not in some sort of trance while writing...if my characters haven't taken over my fingers themselves...then I'm not producing quality work.
- I need to be very smart, highly educated, and utterly fascinating to write.
- I also need to be temperamental and more than a little insane.
- Ideally, my wardrobe would consist of nothing other than peasant skirts, black chiffon dresses, and high heeled boots. And a beret.
- Don't bother writing if you haven't lived in Paris, in a garret.
- Books and babies don't mix.
- Fiction is all that matters. Nonfiction writing isn't “real writing.”
- I haven't done anything worth writing about, and yet, I must always “write what I know.”
- Only writing directly into a work in progress matters, forget planning or notetaking or even just occasionally THINKING about what I want to say. If I need to think that much, I am not a real writer.
- If my writing doesn't resemble the examples in the writing books, I am not a real writer.
- If I am too unhappy, I must not really love writing.
- If I am too happy, I must not be “deep” enough to be a writer.
- Be suspicious if it comes too easily. Be suspicious if it's too hard.
- Either you are a genius, or you are nothing. And you are probably not a genius.
If you see any of these ideas walking down the street, looking for a new home, be sure to cross the street. But first, give them a kick in the shins for me.
For more writing know-how, go here.