Tuesday, June 10, 2014

You wouldn't like me when I'm angry

I'd like to talk a little today about process.
Specifically, my writing process and its evolution throughout the years. To start I'd like to share a poem. It's actually the first poem i ever wrote. I've attached an image of it from when it was published in my high school lit mag. Take a moment to read it. I'll wait, I promise.
This was my approach to writing. I likened it very much to the Incredible Hulk. For those unfamiliar (though I'm not really sure who wouldn't know this story by now), the Hulk persona would overtake Bruce Banner and completely consume him. He had no control over the transformation into the Hulk. He could only let it happen. That's how I approached my writing. I would sit myself at my computer, eyes closed, fingers poised over the keyboard, eagerly awaiting the lightning bolt of inspiration to strike.
For the longest time this was the only way I could write. I would spend sleepless nights banging out anywhere from 20,000 to 50,000 words. Finishing whole short stories or multiple chapters in one go. Unfortunately, this method is not sustainable for long term, or even for the goal of publication. I find myself running into writer's block whenever I couldn't find the spark of inspiration or when I didn't have hours to spend at my computer waiting for the stories to rush thorough me.
I learned that I would have to retrain my mind. Teach myself new tricks if I wanted to grow as a writer. So that's what I did. I started carrying around a notebook, jotting down notes, dialogue, snippets, whatever struck me in the moment. I also began to force myself to start actively participate in the worldbuilding aspect of my writing. Before, I would let the world form as I wrote, but now I've started to construct the world ahead of the story.
I've been creating timelines, outlines, family trees, myths, mores, and getting into the grit of my fictional worlds. All this was successful in breaking my habit of falling into a block whenever I couldn't allow myself to complete my "transformation." This isn't to say that I don't still freewrite, but that isn't the only weapon in my arsenal anymore.
Just by adopting new practices, I've been able to retrain myself to avoid my past pitfalls. If any writer or aspiring writer is teasing this, my advice would be don't just sit in a rut. It doesn't have to be that way. If your old methods aren't producing results, try some new ones. Find some new tools for your toolbox. 
Actually, I think that advice may have broader implications beyond writers and our struggles, but I'll let you ponder on that on your own.
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Thanks for reading.

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