Friday, October 22, 2010

Satisfaction in the Doing

For the past week or so, I've been immersed in the world of a novel I wrote exactly a year ago, called "Future Tense".  This morning, I finished hand writing my edits on a hard copy of the manuscript, integrating the comments and critiques from three critique partners.

If it sounds like a daunting process, that's because it is.  Editing is another of those balancing acts.  But this time, the balance is between the writer's creative voice and the internal editor.  Between creation and destruction.

Well, not destruction, exactly, but it can feel like that at times in the process.  The creative mind is like a magpie.  Everything it sees is 'ohh, shiny'. And it's important to reach for those shiny things, using as many of them to build something both messy and bright.

Messy, because creativity is not an orderly, neat process. One of the main lessons I've learned about my own process this past year is that in my writing and in my life, I have a fear of letting go.  It makes me one of the most un-spontaneous people I know.  It will not surprise anyone who knows me to know I love lists and live and die by my planning calendar. 

I've brought that same kind of planning to my writing.  On the plus side, it does give me the necessary discipline to finish what I start, even (especially?) when the writing isn't going the way I want it to go.

However (and this is big), it also limits the creativity and the spontaneity of my stories.  Which leads me to yet another balance:  between predictability and randomness.

Especially in the creative process, I need to allow my unconscious mind to wander more.  To follow that shiny idea without worrying about what it is.  If I'm never surprised by the story, how can my reader be? 

So here is when I circle back to the title and opening of this blog post.  Satisfaction in the Doing.  In looking through three sets of critique comments, it was gratifying to see where I had let the story breathe ("Wow--didn't see that one coming, but it makes perfect sense.") and where I needed to give the story it's freedom even more ("You already told us this, repetitive.  Trust the reader.")

I struck out predictable lines with some sort of manic glee and added other segments to deepen the emotional resonance and add a slower unfolding of some events. 

And it was fun.

Whatever happens to this, or any other of my manuscripts, I need to remember how much I love this process of sculpting a story and seeing it take its form, both in ways planned and unplanned.


  1. Wow, I so relate to you about the lists and calendars. Yet pre motherhood I was all about letting the story go where it wanted to. Are you really unspontaneous or just a very busy person? With an unstoppable itch to write?

  2. LOL--list making and pre-planning totally predated marriage, job, and children. :) I wish I knew how to be more spontaneous.

    Thanks for stopping by, verilion.