Sunday, December 26, 2010

How Realistic Can the Fictional Dream Be?

A few nights ago, I dreamt I remembered flying a small plane with my cat in the copilot's seat.  Notice that I didn't dream I was flying with her, but instead I was remembering that I had.  I recalled her sitting up in the left seat, peering out the windshield, calm and happy, queen of all she surveyed.  And she was surveying quite a bit, being a mile or so up in the air.

Of course this never happened, and if somehow I had lost my mind and placed her in that seat, she would not have stayed put, she would not have been calm or happy, and she couldn't have seen over the dashboard either.  I wonder if instead I had dreamt that we were flying together (rather than remembering), that upon waking I would have known it was a dream.  As it was, it took a moment for me to realize (later in the day, when the memory came to the front of my mind) that it was a dream and not reality.

As writers, we strive to create fictional dreams.  Our stories should pull a reader into the book, into our protagonist's world.  There have been a great many great writers, and I have read a great many of their works.  I get engrossed in my reading:  I laugh out loud, I nod my head, I cringe, I duck, I squirm, I jump, I cry....

Why have I never mistakenly thought, even for a moment, that a passage I've merely read actually happened to me?

Has it ever happened to you?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Time and Tidiness Wait for No One

I've been thinking a lot about cleaning, lately.  The options are to:
  • leave a mess (who needs to clean?)
  • leave a mess until you do a deep cleaning at the end
  • always keep things clean
  • cycles of let-it-get-dirty followed by clean-ups

Let's just put the leave a mess idea out to pasture.  We're going to show more self-respect than that.

Alternatively, cleaning up after making a long-term mess, after letting the cruft pile up, the stains set and the mold grow, may work but having to do all that cleaning at one fell swoop is difficult.  There's always the chance that you'll claim you're done before it's really as clean as it should be.  Cleaning can be a mind-numbing activity, and numb is not a place from which you're likely to do your best.  But if you enjoy the cleanup process, then this may be a good approach for you.

The opposite of leaving a mess is the other extreme:  never letting anything fall out of place.  Anything that might become dirt or disorder is immediately tackled and dispatched.  Cleanliness rules.  It sounds good (even if in practice it's difficult to do) but I think it's a red herring.  Cleanliness is not the goal -- writing is.  [Of course this is about writing -- did you think I was talking about house cleaning?]  The goal is writing:  clean writing, yes, but writing first, cleaning second.  Another word for clean is sterile, which is not something we want our writing to be.  Disorder can help trigger connectivity and creativity.

As usual, the middle road sounds appealing and sensible.  Interspersing periods of writing with periods of cleaning, clutter-removal and looking for targets to send to the trash or recycling, seems like a good idea.  You can adjust how often you clean based upon your style, energy, schedule and need.  I just don't find it works for me.  How can I know what is discardable before the draft is even finished?

I enjoy the cleaning process best when I can see a big difference between the before and the after.  When I was young, my favorite time to vacuum the floor was when it was filthy enough that I could hear the dirt going through the hose.  For similar reasons, I now prefer to leave my editing till after a draft is finished.

How about you?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tossed in the Winds of Change

Winds shape the clouds, the trees, the land, the climate, the life.  One wind shapes another wind.  Winds create flow, change, and sometimes turmoil.  Flow, change and turmoil create winds of their own.

Breaths, waftings, currents, breezes, blows stiff and shrill, gales, turbulence, uplifts and chop make leaves dance, trees bend, dust obscure, snow fly, wires buzz and rain pelt.  We sense a change in the air.  Winds bring change, carry change, warn of it, spawn it, sweep all before it.  We speak of the "winds of change," but rarely of the "changes of wind."

Without wind, the wind of the soul, change, little would happen worthy of a story, little would happen worthy of a life.  Our characters are buffeted by winds; their responses, and the further stirrings they trigger are what make the reading interesting.  When they blow through our own lives we always have a choice of how to respond, just as we have a choice to make for our characters, though we may not want to make the same choices in both instances.

How are you dealing with the winds blowing through your life right now?

One word:  wings.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Writing for Our Selves

Lately a lot of people have been under pressure.  I've certainly been feeling it.  Pressure from my day-job, pressure about the holidays, pressure about elder-care responsibilities, pressure to be more fit, pressure to make better use of my time, pressure to get the yard work done... you name it.

Do we really need to add the pressure to write a novel?  To find an agent and revise the entire book in the process?  To revise again to get an editor?  To (perhaps) wind up with a novel that is not our story anymore?  To be pushed into writing two books a year even though our natural pace may be slower than that?  To have our writing or our families or our jobs suffer in the attempt? 

Must our process of writing cease to be a delight in order for us to succeed?

It depends on our definition(s) of success; my definition says "no" to the additional pressure.

I don't need another full-time career -- I've already got one that is always straining to be more than 40 hours/week.  I need a(nother) creative outlet.  That's what I want from writing.

You should do what you've got to do.  But remember to do it by choice, with your eyes open to the benefits and costs both to yourself and to those around you.

Happy trails.