Saturday, May 5, 2012

revelation: the power of words

I had another writing revelation today.  It's something I've always known but hit me in the gut again after a conversation today.  It's profound how an old truth can become real again when it is said in a new way.  (This, by the way, is something writers need to know. There are no new Truths, just new ways to say old Truths.  Originality comes in saying an old Truth in a new, unique, coherent or powerful way.) 

I came out of the movie theatre today after watching The Hunger Games.  My uncle joked that "You're only one year away and then you can be a Career."  I said something about not wanting to be a Career.  Then someone else with us says "Your weapon can be writing."  I replied:

"Writing can't kill people."

And then it hit me.  What I said wasn't true.

Writing does kill people.

Mein Kampf. Origin of Species. Communist Manifesto.  Many, many other writings.  Writings that have led, either directly or indirectly to wars, injustices, lies, the murder of the innocent, and other evils.

Writing is always about ideas.  Whether it's a story, song, poem, essay or blog article, it's ultimately undergirded by ideas, views on the world, on life, and on right and wrong.  Ideas have consequences.  That's a cliche, but a true one.  The ideas expressed in writing may be just words, but they lead to actions.  Good ideas -and by good I mean True- lead to good actions.  Bad ideas -and by bad I mean False- lead to bad actions.   Wars start as a result of bad ideas.  Every thing we write has consequences.

"The tongue has the power of life and death." -Proverbs 18:20.  Our words- both on paper and in life- have consequences.  

I want to be sure that I know what I'm saying and to ensure that I am writing ideas that are grounded in Truth and that lead to good. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

What putting Noisemaker on hold has taught me about writing

Some writing days felt like this.
So, it's been a hard writing time lately.  For several reasons, not the least of which is my own inconsistency and procrastination.  But more than that, I've just been having a hard time making writing work.  There's been more than a few days where I've groaned and struggled and spent entire afternoons where I end up with nothing to show for it.   There's been a few days where I've nearly cried.  "Why won't this story just WORK?!"

Most of this stress came from a recent project called Noisemaker.  I loved the theme behind it.  It's based on something I'm passionate about and I delved right into plotting, creating characters, and developing the theme.  The story changed its form at least a dozen times over the course of March.  But as time went on, I was having a harder and harder time actually writing it. I could write lots about it, but the actual words on paper- the actual story- wasn't working.   It had me nearly pulling out my hair with the fact that I couldn't pin a plot down.  It had a setting and it had a theme, but connecting the plot and characters to it was the challenge.  With such a big theme, I could write reams of essays about it but as a story the hugeness of it was stumping me.

The theme behind Noisemaker was so big that fitting it into a plot was time consuming and draining.  And by draining, I mean mentally and spiritually draining.  It was a lot of plot problems and a lot of frustration.

The stress of the project was just compounded by the fact that I need to have a full novel draft ready by the end of June for a writing workshop I am going to attend.  I got to the point of despairing if I would ever even nail down a loose outline, never mind write Chapter One or "The end."

Eventually I had to realize that this project was too big.  At least for now.  It was too new, too massive in proportion.  It needed time to sit and ripen and develop in my mind.  It wasn't ready to come onto paper.  Maybe it would be soon, but forcing it before I was capable of writing it wasn't going to be good for me or the story. 

I don't mean that there isn't a time to force your way through a story.  I know that just because a story is hard doesn't mean that it's not ready.  I'm not advocating giving up when the going gets tough!  But in this case, Noisemaker was so consistently difficult and between my own stress and the helpful counsel of my mom we determined that it just wasn't the right time yet.

Now I'm working on a novel of a very different kind.  It's a novel idea that started when I was about 12.  I've written countless notes, character sketches, chapter outlines, and theme notes.  It's a much better developed story in my mind.  It's had plenty of time to ripen.  Ultimately, it's ready to become a full fledged novel.  It'll still be hard.  That's what writing is- not all sunshine and words flying onto the page.  But this story is one I feel much better equipped and ready to write.

Noisemaker is on the shelf presently. And it's a good thing, because now I'm writing a story that IS ready to be written.  This process has been a valuable one, as I've realized that I can't white knuckle writing.  Sometimes stories need to sit. Sometimes an idea is good- but not quite yet.