I have always been a storyteller. I started writing stories as a teenager though I began making them up long before. Only within the last handful of years have I started to seriously pursue writing as a career. Sometimes, I struggle with the feeling that I am utterly inadequate at it, especially as I strive to improve my craft. There are so many people out there to tell you what you should write and how to go about it.
I have learned many things about being a writer and an author over that time. The single most important piece of knowledge I have discovered is this.
Trust yourself, you know what you are doing.
You can learn how to become a better writer, improve your skills through classes and how to books/articles, but no one can tell you how to write your novel.
Your voice and your style are part of your personality, something you develop over time. Your story is unique. It is crafted through your personality.
So, write it down and trust yourself, because you know you better than anyone else. Only you can write your unique story.
It’s that time again! I’m dedicated to writing 15k this session and hopefully that will bring me to the end – or at least close- of the first draft of my current novel. I love Nano because it gives me a deadline to work toward. The fact that it makes me more publicly accountable for my promise means I am less likely to make excuses for not writing as much as I could. Anyone else jumping into the Nano challenge this month?
“I don’t have the time to – insert activity here-.”
“Where do you find the time?”
These are two things I hear a lot when talking about writing and a few other activities I do as well. Have you ever thought about how many ways we use the word time?
run out of time
We can have:
a bad time
a good time
all the time in the world
a time of it
a hard time
an easy time
a short time
a long time
no time at all
One would think that with all this time we have, finding time should be easy, right? By the way we speak, time is a thing, something we can grasp and hold on to, and something that is finite as we can run out of it, yet find or make more of it. However, we all know that time is a perception of our reality. Why else would a dreaded task take an hour and feel like a week, and a beloved several hour long event pass in the blink of an eye?
So my answer is always the same to the first two thoughts.
“You always have the time for something you care about. If you want to (write or – insert activity here-) you don’t have to find the time, you simply do it. The act of making something important will create the time for you.”
I find myself repeating this almost daily as a mother and wife. It’s become a mantra of sorts, I suppose. My children are busy and often involved in whatever is holding their attention (usually not me) and don’t always respond when I speak to them. Because I care that they understand the rules, the guidelines, the instructions etc. that I have just rattled off, I will repeat myself usually precluded with one of the aforementioned questions. I know this is the norm. I’ve heard and seen it in many of my friends’ households and heard it from my own parents when I was a child as well, but recently I have thought about what I mean when I say these words.
I am an over-thinker. As a writer of novels, this is not a bad thing to be. It makes it easier to imagine every possible outcome for my characters. But as a mother and wife I probably spend too much time on why I use that particular set of sentences. In reality I know they hear me. They are not deaf and I do not have a quiet voice or manner about me. What I mean when I ask them this is “Do you understand what is expected of you?”
“Yes Mom, I hear you.” -The most common of the answers to my questions, and usually accompanied by a sigh of frustration.
But that’s not what I really wanted to ask. And just because they heard me doesn’t mean they understood me. So why not just ask them the question I mean?
Because I might not like the answer? Because I might have to explain? Maybe because I feel pressed for time and don’t want to delve into it any deeper. Maybe because it’s habit. I suppose the answers are as infinite and different as the people giving them. But this over-thinking writer is concerned with how it shapes who we are and the world we live in.
“Say what you mean and mean what you say.”
I’m sure you’ve all heard that phrase before. Do you all hear it in the Horton the elephant’s voice too? 100% LOL
It doesn’t seem like a difficult concept. But the more I think about it, the more I understand that the world around me rarely follows this advice. We say things we don’t mean all the time, during arguments with our family and friends, to our bosses and coworkers to curry favor, to strangers to be polite. What would the world look like if everyone only said exactly what they meant? Would we all want to live in that world? Would it be more complicated? Or less?
Hmm… sounds like another book idea is in the works. Who wants to help me with research?
I spent a good chunk of the day outside. Anyone that has spent time with me understands this to be something that doesn’t happen often when it’s sunny. I burn and freckle easily, but there were things to do, like wash the windows and plant my wildflower garden, so out I go. I live in the mountains and sunny weather lasts all of three months so if I don’t do it now… Anyway, while I gardened I had some thoughts.
I am a writer. I am a mother. I am a wife, a musician, a friend, and a dozen other things but I am not a gardener. As a kid, my parents gardened. Not just a few flowers here of there but serious gardens of squash, cantaloupe, cucumbers, tomatoes, pumpkins and other such edibles that took serious time management skills to keep weeded and watered. My mother grew lilies, tulips, daisies, irises and pansies in several areas around the 2 acres of property they owned. But they all paled in comparison to the jungle she grew indoors. She had every type of houseplant imaginable and they all loved her, growing beautifully under her loving care. So I know a little about what goes into taking care of plants and gardening. But up until a year ago every plant I have ever owned, died. I thought about why that was, while I pulled grass from where it shouldn’t be, and turned soil so it was soft and welcoming for my plants.
What does gardening have to do with writing, you might ask? Let me explain. A story is very much a living thing just like a plant. You can water it and put it in sunlight and it will grow, but if you want it to grow strong you need to nurture it. You have to give it room to expand and become what it is going to be. You need to trim away the dead parts, you need to feed it and coax it into bloom. You have to give it your attention and love.
It’s not enough to just write your story, any more than its enough to just water your plant. You need to spend time on it, be open to letting the story wander and become a living breathing thing. Edit it after you know what it’s going to be not when it’s still a sprout, so you improve its beauty. When you are finished you will have a wonderful strong story.
So, looking back on my experience as a kid and this last year while I have tended a small rose in my home, I realized I am a gardener. I may never be great with plants (though I will keep trying), but I AM a gardener, and what I garden are words.
My mind is always working. Even when I am sleeping, my mind continues to work on my stories. It never ceases to amaze me how many times I have found the answer to something I am writing within the vault of dreams. Currently I am working on another YA fantasy novel. I have been hashing out the world’s rules and government, trying to come up with terms of office that I liked, and job descriptions for each. I just couldn’t wrap my brain around something I really liked and fit my story. So, I went to bed early. (I tend to be a night owl when I am working on a project.) Lo and behold I dreamt, and upon waking had the solution to my dilemma.
So, writing solution found, I began thinking about how many times I have found story ideas or solutions within my dreams. It seems that inspiration strikes me most in bed. Which means at times, not everything gets remembered or makes it to the page. I find myself frustrated that I can remember that I had a great idea but not remember the actual idea. (And yes, I keep a notebook within reach.)
Now, I find myself thinking, “Hurry up science! I need a way to transfer my dreams directly into my writing program.”
Ooo, there’s an idea!
Every time I begin a new story, I start to picture what the characters look like, as well as what personality traits they carry, etc. but it always starts with what they look like. Over the years that I have been writing, I have done different things to help out my imagination. When I was younger, I drew my characters, I sketched out floor plans of homes, and I looked through old pictures I took of pretty places in the world around me to add to my stories.
These days, with the internet being such a trove of photos and pictures to look over, I have gotten out of the habit of drawing my characters. I will spend hours combing through google images to find the faces of strangers, and sometimes celebrities, that fit my idea of who my characters are and what they look like. But I wonder if, by being less organic, I am taking something away from my stories. My drawings had flaws (lots of them). Faces were not smooth like airbrushed pictures, they were filled with crooked lines and eraser mark scars. (I’m not an artist of any real talent, I just have a love of creating) Am I doing myself a disservice? Does it change how well I understand my characters, or how realistic they seem in my stories? I’m left to wonder for now. But I think an experiment may be in order.
I’m always curious to know how other writers work, what their process is, since there are as many different ways to write, as there are genres. I’d love to hear how any of you create! Leave me a comment.