Monday, July 13, 2009

The time question

A comment from my previous post asks a question:
"Um, as a fellow writer i was wondering When do you find the time to write? i know i should plonk my butt in the chair and keep writing but I get so frustrated and worried about what happens next. I hate any ideas I come up with and haven't made progress in months and..."

Here's how I see the time question, and I know I could be wrong. . .

The thing about time is that it often disguises other issues. We say we don't have time, but is that really so? I mean, we're all issued 24 hours a day. What do we choose to do with those hours? Even with a hundred commitments, there is always at least some time left over to write. It might be only a few minutes a day, but it's there to be found if we seek it out.

So what's it mean when it feels as if there isn't any time? I think the questioner above is on to something when she says frustration and worry and self-doubt take over. When that happens, time to write seems to disappear. It disappears into the frustration, the worry, and the self-doubt. Time contracts as our fears expand.

How to work with those fears and open up some time? Well, I'm not a psychologist so I can only speak for myself. I think it's important to remember that doubt and fear are natural, normal, and something to expect. (I write about this topic more in my book Wild Ink.) Writing involves digging into our gut, exposing heart and mind, and wrestling with language! Sometimes, it's very hard.

The main thing: Don't get discouraged. Take it one word at a time. Give yourself permission to write badly while working on the first draft. And the second draft. . . Just about every writer struggles with this, so take a deep breath and keep going.

Eventually you'll seize your story. Just give it some time.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Do you feel sorry for your characters?

Do you feel sorry for your characters?
You should. If you don't, something's wrong with your story.
I feel sorry for mine.
Oh, how they suffer! And yet, I lie awake nights thinking of fresh ways to disturb them and make their lives horrendously hard.
Because without conflict, a story is about as exciting as a stale marshmallow, a dead toothbrush, or a cracked porcelain bell without a clapper.
We love our characters, so it's tough to make them suffer. If only their lives could be smooth as ironed silk scented with blooming jasmine. . .
However, if we wrote them like that, they'd be so boring they'd put everyone to sleep.
So, another day, another hardship! For the characters, that is.