Friday, December 16, 2011

Some Quicksand

"A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author."
-G. K. Chesterton

Sometimes writing is like struggling in quicksand.

Have you ever struggled in quicksand?

Me neither.

But, I've read from several sources that if you struggle in quicksand, you only sink faster and get more firmly stuck in the sinkhole. (scientific facts)

Sometimes when you're writing, it's like you set out along the shortcut through the jungle with the best of intentions, pledging your undying loyalty to your work and vowing to see it through till the end.

Then, you step in something unpleasant. You look back for a second and realize there's some awful plot hole in your writing and it makes you sick and terrified just to look at it. Your character started a sentence as a hopeful, brave soul and ended it as a depressed, ignorant whiner. The whole thing is a flop and if anyone ever reads it they'll never have any semblance of respect for you again.

So you try to escape. You try to get out of it as fast as possible. You try to cover everything up with Band Aids and catch a ride with the traveling circus while your good intentions aren't looking. You just can't bear to break their hearts.

As you flounder in the muck, it never once occurs to you that you would be very buoyant in quicksand if you just stopped moving and back-floated gracefully to safety. (scientific facts)

As it is, even though you won't drown, you'll probably be stuck for life and starve to death or be eaten by a wild animal. 

If I write something well, it will be good because my character was memorable and inspiring.

If I write something awful, everyone will know what's bothering me and what my deepest fears are and just exactly why I shouldn't really be writing in the first place.

I often have to remind myself that my stories aren't about me. They were never supposed to be about me. They were supposed to be about characters who came alive inside of me, but are very unique and marvelous all on their own.

I am reading one of my birthday presents right now; a very insightful book by Anne Lamott called Bird by Bird, in which she very accurately described how I feel about good books and good characters; they get inside of you, and when they finally leave, they've changed you.

Right now I face a lot of stall-out stories and abandoned ambitions. There isn't a lot of 'completed' or 'perfected' stored on my flash drive; just a lot of 'someday' and 'maybe' and 'I'll-get-to-that-eventually'. 

Maybe the reason I so adamantly detest editing is because, as G. K. Chesterton said, my writing, because it is honestly not very good yet, reveals to me things I don't like about myself. It mirrors my fears for the future and my feelings about the past until it makes me uncomfortable with who I am and what I've written.

It never really occurs to me that, like my life, there's always going to be room for improvement.

I guess the trick, in both cases, is finding a level of imperfection you can live with.

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