Tag Archive | creative writing

How Writing Is Like Driving

Writing a book is like driving to a place you’ve never been before.

You have a map that plans the trip, telling you where to go and what to do.  You know you’re starting at Point A and somehow you know you’ll end up at Point B.  The beginning part of the journey is easy enough.  In fact, once you pull out of the driveway you think, “Yeah!  I got this!  This is a piece of cake!”

That is until you come to some construction on the highway you were supposed to take and the road is blocked.  You can try to go through it, but if you do, your trip is going to get messy (and you may just get a flat tire.)

There are two choices in front of you: trudge along on the (original) intended path-and hope you make it through the mess without a scratch-or take a new turn and wing it, hoping you’ll somehow end up at that Point B destination without getting lost.

This is the predicament I’m in at the moment while finishing the revisions on my first novel.  I had a map (yeah…that didn’t work out so good), but I was familiar enough with the route I was taking in the story to think, “Yeah!  This is going to work!” And then I hit a road block.  Well, creative block, actually.  And even though my first, second, and third novels in the series are still in good order, I have no clue how I’m going to get to my destination-the last book in the series.

As someone who really (stress: really) likes to plan, this part of the writing journey has been frustrating and mentally painful.  I like to know where I’m going and how I’m going to get there.  I don’t want to be surprised because…well, I’m the author, darn it.  I’m writing this story and out of all the people who will ever read it, I should know how it’s going to end up.  

But writing is never really that easy, is it?

I used to travel a lot at my old job.  I lived off of maps and had to use them constantly to be able to find where I needed to go.  But often times, during my travels, I’d still get lost (thank you, closed roads and construction lanes.)  I’d have to find another route to my destination.  Sometimes these routes would be ugly and slow, but every so often the routes would take me to beautiful places that I would be unaware of had the road block not been there.

I think this is what writing a story is like.  We have our plans.  We know where we want to go.  But when we get that creative block-or when the plan doesn’t work out-we have to take a detour.  Sometimes the alternate route isn’t very comfortable and we have to trudge through it to get to our destination.  Other times the alternate route is better than what we had before.  It’s more exciting, it’s more scenic, it’s more peaceful.  There are also those times when no matter what route we take, it’s a bad one, and we have to scrap the trip altogether.

Writing, like driving, can have its ups and downs.  Some days we’re cruising with ease and other days we’re hitting traffic, construction, and potholes.  But whatever the road blocks we come across, they always come with a purpose.  They may take the story in a new direction.  They may surprise the author (and the readers) in the changes that were made.  They may make a story better than what was there before.  They may also take a bad story and exchange it for a good one.

So as I’m coming across this road block and thinking of an alternate route, I can’t help but wonder of where it’ll take my story next.  (I just hope it’s not full of potholes-I mean, plot holes.)

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A Post About Nothing

In trying to keep tradition by at least posting once a week, I decided I would drop a post today that reflected my current thinking status:

Today’s post will be about…nothing.

Because we all have those days where no matter how creative we’ve been in the past, somehow, someway we have those days where the brain just decides to take a break from creation and we just sit in front of the TV all day watching re-runs of Sherlock or whatever movies were DVR’ed from the free HBO preview weekend.  Because some days the only productive thing we do is post a meaningless cat video on Facebook for everyone to see.  Because some days are just full of writer’s block, and the wall that’s been built to block our creativity needs a hammer as strong as Thor’s to break it down.

So what do you do when your creativity produces nothing?

I’ll admit that today was a day I did not feel like writing.  Not that I didn’t want to, of course, but after four days in a hospital caring for a family member, I can’t help but feel a little tired (and a little queasy from whatever gravy-rice combo they served in the cafeteria.)  And even though I wanted to write, it seemed like the creativity-the ideas-just wasn’t there.  It’s like my mind went on vacation but left my body staying put.

My frustrations about my writer’s block reminded me of a piece of writer’s advice I came across a few days ago: write everyday.  I’ve heard this from numerous authors, screenplay writers, and literary authority figures whenever they’re asked to give advice to aspiring writers.  At first when I heard this advice, I thought, “Yeah right.  There are just some days where you just can’t write.  Ever heard of writer’s block?”  And so I only wrote when feeling “creative” or “inspired”.  Don’t get me wrong-good writing was produced and I was happy with the pages I completed.  But soon I got busy-work, church, friends and family-and since I was only writing when I felt “inspired”, my writing became more sporadic.  Writing didn’t happen as often and soon the novel I swore I’d have finished by the end of the month ended up sitting pretty on my computer’s hard drive for three years, nearly untouched.

It was then I decided to listen to the advice I was given-write everyday.  I started writing when I had no inspiration, when writer’s block seemed to halt my creativity.  I’ll admit most of the writing produced was far from perfect, but suddenly ideas started springing as I was writing.  More content was being created.  I learned how to edit and why it was important to go back and make changes.  I also learned that writing doesn’t just rely on inspiration-it also relies on persistence and dedication.  Anyone can write a story, but it takes a true writer to craft that story and make it into not a work of inspiration, but a work that inspires.

So now that I’ve rambled long enough, I’m going to end this post about nothing and return to my regular schedule of working, eating, and sleeping.  I’m happy to say that I’ve written today (as practice makes perfect in the long run).  But I’ll be honest-there are some days where I get busy.  I don’t get to write everyday.  But on the days I do get to write, I find that even when I’m not feeling creative, the creativity’s still there somewhere.  I just may need to work a little harder to find it.

My Great-Grandma’s Secret

Since my grandmother’s stroke and my grandfather’s bypass surgery, my mom and I have found ourselves spending a lot of time caregiving.  This means more assistance, cleaning, running errands, and fixing things, but it also means extra time to sit down and talk, not only hearing stories of young love or pranks on friends, but also about our family itself.

While organizing boxes of old photos, we came across a picture of my great-grandma, my grandpa’s mother.  I didn’t get to know my great-grandma that much as she lived far away and died of Alzheimer’s when I was young.  I knew things about her, though.  She was a housewife who loved books and had a library that would make any bookworm swoon.  Her collection of books was diverse, from novels to comic books, and she had a great respect for education and the written word.

But I only knew her as a bookish, quiet woman who had nice handwriting.  My only memory of her was her sitting quietly when we came to visit, struggling to remember who everyone was.

As we went through the pictures and other old items, my grandparents began to tell stories of the great-grandmother I barely knew.  I learned she had short hair when she was young and wasn’t as flashy or flamboyant as her sister.  She was very pretty as a young lady and had a confident, brave look about her.  She also had a cool winter coat.

But as the conversation turned and we began to talk about her love for books, my grandparents revealed something that I had never heard of regarding my great-grandma.

She was a writer.

Apparently my great-grandma wrote short stories for children (mysteries and family stories mostly) and was working on a novel.  She had never published, unfortunately, but loved to write and even sent out manuscript proposals to magazines.  I was shocked to learn of this revelation.  I come from a long line of blue collar workers…craftsmen.  Aside from music, no one paid much attention to the arts.

This revelation about my great-grandmother’s secret life as a writer gave me a special connection with her, one that made me see her as more than just a woman who loved to read and take care of her family.  She was a woman who followed her passion and tried to make her dream a reality, trying to go into a field that (at the time) didn’t see many women.  She was a woman I wish I had the chance to get to know better, who undoubtedly would have been not only a great mentor but a great friend had Alzheimer’s not cut her life so short.

But even though she’s gone, I can’t help but feel she’s looking down from Heaven, smiling at the fact that one of her descendants picked up where she left off-that someone else is just as bookish, just as wordy as she was, who also wants to write.  I never thought of writing as a biological trait (maybe it is or maybe it isn’t), but regardless I will always be proud of my great-grandma who was a writer.