Wednesday, October 2, 2013

You've Tried Caution, But That Didn't Seem to Work

Your productivity over the years has taken a leap forward since your discovery of the need for an entire first draft before you could determine where the project began, where it ended, and what it was all about.

Laboring (or not laboring at all) under the belief that you needed to think the entire project through before you could start, no wonder you were led astray so many times, at one point even to the extent of having a notebook filled with opening pages, which you could well have titled Doors to Nowhere.  

Those opening pages were all intriguing, their sentences radiant of a high gloss, their words almost preening as they spoke in considerable error about their own external glitter as opposed to the interior battle of a story or essay.

Those early pages you could with some certainty add onto, then bring along to conclusion, were your salvation in ways you could not then anticipate.  More to the point then, you were relieved when a thing worked, where you were able to see it early on as having a tangible arc and an even more tangible payoff.  

This was the assurance you needed--then--to ratify for yourself what you hoped to be.  Even though your approach was, you now realize, wrong, there was some sense of life beyond the stories you dashed off in a day or two, the novels you dashed off in a month or, worst case scenario, six weeks.

You can tell yourself you were teaching yourself or, if you wish to be more stringent, you can tell yourself you were drinking the nepenthe of self-delusion.

You'd begun reading of and hearing from writers their ongoing discovery of process, their adventures of setting forth on journeys of discovery as contrasted to the fill-in-the-dots recipe for producing material.  

Then, you tried it.

Perhaps you'd been on the right track all along, needing to work your way up to this point of seeing the enthusiasm for a project ebb slowly away, like the waxing of a full moon, on a daily basis, before your eyes. Perhaps there are grains of truth on the scale of the argument that learning and pain have a certain chemistry.

Loosing a story because of your belief that a story needed to be seen clear through before it could be begun has brought you many a wrench of pain.  What better way to overcome that wrench than the thrill, the braided combination of fear, uncertainty, adventure, and the flirtation with failure to make the goal discovery as you go as opposed to a retrospective filling in from a thought-through outline.

A trademark of which you have become aware over the years is your tendency to risk more up front, pushing you in effect to push your characters into greater, deeper mischief.

In story, mischief can be enhanced, cut back, or deleted altogether.  In real life, your sense of understanding and control have tangible limitations.  In your stories, story begins when two or more persons arrive in a setting, each carrying a sense of being right.  What is story? Two or more persons, each convinced of their rightness in one or more matters.  Most of the prolific writers you admire exploit this circumstance, whether it is your Middle Ages favorite, Chaucer, your Shakespearean favorite, Shakespeare, your Mark Twain favorite, Mark Twain, your contemporary favorites, Louise Erdrich or Daniel Woodrell.

As you enjoy seeing the matter, your approach is not to pursue a belief of rightness, you--as you like to say--tried being right, but that didn't work.  Rather, mischief and enthusiasm work best for you; they are the architects of your process.

Sometimes, you are too mischievous and/or enthusiastic, seemingly for the pure mischief and enthusiasm of it.  In story, this aspect can be dealt with in a number of ways, with lines drawn through it by a pen, with the click of a delete key, or the snip of a scissors.  In life, the answers are not so clear.  You must do in life what you've learned to do in story:  set forth, look about to take in the signs, proceed with caution.

You can also look at yourself to consider you've tried caution in so many ways and it did not work.

Hi, I'm Bull, your guide in the china shop.  Would you care to hear our specials today?

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