Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Turning on the Faucet

Photo: Michal Grosicki via Unsplash
Part of writing, like any other craft, is discipline. When it comes to this blog, for example, most of the battle is just showing up. Setting a posting schedule and adhering to it creates a habit that facilitates success in terms of generation of content. Some posts are longer than others, or better than others or get posted earlier than others -- just as in any other form of publication -- but most of the time, simply by showing up, I make progress.

This type of discipline works for assignments as well. It helps that these pieces are typically on topics of my choosing and that I've thought about how I want to write them and what information I want to include before I've even proposed them. Grunt work done, all that remains is the crafting of the piece itself and, once again, showing up is most of the battle. Some days it flows, other days it stalls and sometimes I wonder why I thought this topic was a good idea -- just as in any other form of creative expression -- but most of the time, simply by showing up, I make progress.

But fiction is different. Infused by life, whether schedules or events, it's a tad more temperamental. Showing up is only about half the battle. When time is tight or I'm distracted, I might sit in my chair like I'm supposed to, but there's no guarantee that my characters will show up. Story lines and dialogue are more difficult to access, and may become bland; I might even find myself staring at a blank screen for an uncomfortably long period of time. Both directly and indirectly, creative writing is more subject to life's whims than blogs or articles.

While this is often an obstacle, it can also be a blessing. When I allow my own experiences to color what my characters are going through, my writing becomes richer. Even if my characters aren't me and their life isn't my life, the difference between writing "she was relieved" and describing that relief in terms that will make readers step into a character's emotional world is living that relief -- or any other emotion -- in the first place.

RayMark via Pixabay
Sometimes, I wish things were simpler or that I were better at just sitting down and letting the faucet flow. Then I remember that the only way that can happen is if the water is turned on, and that it's life that turns on the water. Sure, I can imagine characters and scenes and dialogue -- and I do -- but to flood them with feelings and experiences, I have to turn on the water.

And to do that, I have to have a life. A complex, full, unpredictable life.

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