Saturday, September 13, 2014

Tidying up After Writing

What beginning and intermediate writers are thinking of when they speak about or question the condition of writers' block is little more than fear of what their own inner editor will think of them,

Such thoughts can cause an otherwise chatty and inquisitive person to shut down under a welter of questions related to usage conventions, verb tenses, and plausibility.

Writers composing from a place of engaged enthusiasm have the advantage over those whose first thoughts on having a viable concept lead them to consider technical details:  best place to start, point of view, assignment of single or multiple character filtration, over abundant focus on the use of habit words..

Enthused focus trumps stylistic or usage questions; it strives instead to get a splatter of words down and the growing sense that you as writer have found an informant, someone within the framework of the story who will leak secrets and hidden agendas.

 When you reach this stage, you are no longer describing the charged chaos and turmoil about you, you are instead evoking a sense of place, tradition, and convention the characters you've created have to overcome.

To be sure you will make repetitions, deploy habit words, abuse techniques you've taught yourself that keep the momentum going.  Sometimes this becomes so persistent that even when you are urging yourself to move on, the dreadful presence of the inner editor appears offering you raised eyebrows and reminders of things you must not do to create lucid, grammatical prose.

You, of course, have no interest at the moment in creating lucid, grammatical prose.  You are telling a story, not serving as a reporter, interviewing a source.  You are the source from every character who sets foot in your terrain.

The single, essential beauty of story is the certainty of every character you bring on stage believing he or she has the matter in hand.  Things would not be so chaotic, so fraught with tension and mystery is only the characters would pick the equivalent of a jury foreperson whom they trust to keep matters on track and lucid.

You rejoice in this beauty because you know how it is the glue holding the elements of story together in a guaranteed argument that will soon if not already get out of hand.

The goal is to see to it that your circumstances never quite stop at the boundaries you set for them.  You are at your best when working beyond limits of control in order to allow all the unseen and unspoken things of your observation to rebel.  Sometimes, when  composition seems to be going the best of all, you can almost hear the yelps and cries of your characters bellowing slogans of revolt.

They are revolting against conventions you've set for them according to your own conventions and assessments but also because of the seeming wonderful accomplishments of writers you so admire.

This will, you tell yourself, have been one hell of a party and you will have one hell of a time, cleaning up after it.  But ah, what glorious trespasses, spilled drinks, and epithets shouted in anger the material you've composed will be.

Cliches will be tossed aside, secret coalitions formed, and you will understand the galvanic currents of story passing through the walls and surroundings, into your characters.

Of course you'll tidy up.  Writers do tidy up when the time comes, but if they try to clean up too soon, they can be sure of one inevitability.  The characters will grow restless, then bored.  They will want to leave early.

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