Nothing helps my writing ego inside like a pleasant response, although financial success resultant from writing may surpass such pleasantries. I’ll let you know if I ever experience that, but for the moment, compliments will have to suffice in lieu of dollars. Although praise redeems for a lot less bread, I can write much easier on an empty stomach than in a vacuum of unappreciated work.
This is all a very roundabout way of saying that it’s tough becoming a writer. I’d always write, no matter how many people see it, but until I broke through the fear of showing others what I had taken all that time to construct, writing was a release, rather than a relaxant; a placating chore rather than a pleasurable choice. What I found, to my delight, was that criticism doesn’t hurt if you use it properly, and proper praise can be an epinephrine for the literary will.
Habit is the key to bringing together the disparate facets of the talent; dedicated and hard-fought consistency in accomplishing something, anything! A wise and prolific (and successful!) author recently said that if you can’t sit down and write on a daily basis, you aren’t a writer; harsh words in the ears of someone who was beginning to take it easy. Motivation won out. I write every day, as much of it as I can. I have a regime set up to which I enforce adherence, even to the frustration of other plans.
A pleasant surprise I have found is that such a proscription of efforts can actually be a lot of fun, and for the simple reason of increasing achievement. When you really get to a discipline, it simply follows that you’ll get better at it and the feedback loop is almost always commensurate with the input. That’s why you can’t be a writer if you can’t make yourself write regularly. I realize this may be too bold, but those who grip a pen on occasion are intermittent writers at best. If you haven’t developed a hunger to write that overpowers everything else, work on finding that starving need; and yes, you can find the time, if you want to be a writer. If you can’t find the time, you like the idea of being a writer but you’ve prioritized your life to become something else, which can also be perfectly fine. I really mean to insult no one, merely to encourage people to maximize the effort they put into seeking their life’s goals, starting with myself.
With the enforcement of habit, perhaps the most amazing result in my own experience has been the development of method and style. Truthfully, my style is only just beginning to take shape, and so is my method, but at least the latter I can spend a great deal of idle time considering it. Style takes more of a direct input and output to analyze. How could one possibly understand his own style without actively studying it?
Method, however, is available to consider at any time. Though I’m not researched in the vernacular which surely comprises distinction between methods; but I have developed my own idea for method, at least my particular approach to writing stories, and sometimes some other things as well.
I refer to the sliding scale as Exploratory< – >Definition.
Essentially, there are two ways that I see to write. I can define everything, all the characters, all the plot details, all the settings; until the rough draft of the work emerges from the vast wealth of information. Thus the definition arm simply defines endlessly until the level of the sentence is all that remains left to create prepared (or perhaps the paragraph).
Alternatively, the Exploratory arm is freewriting with a few basic ideas in mind, and allowing those basic ideas to be explored together, or given their relation and cohesion by spontaneous development. This is the method that I primarily use, although I certainly define many things. My characters don’t receive total definition right away. When I begin writing, I take the starting point and the ends that I mean for the characters to come upon, and explore them, developing them within the actual rough draft.
One side-affect of the exploratory method is that the characters may not take shape within the first few chapters and so you’ll have to rewrite them. If you keep your exploratory method open too much during the rewriting, you may not link them up with what was written later on, and hence the cycle would continue.
Definition is important, it’s what makes the final product compelling, however I am very fond of exploring the characters within the story, because it seems to relate them to the plot much more fully, rather than trying to plot out the all of the characters’ quirks and uniqueness beforehand.
Overall, any end product will involve a thick mix of both these approaches, and yet it’s a lot of fun to consider them. This is a very brief overview and I intend to go deeper into this idea, sometime later. As part of my regime to beef up my Exploratory skill, I have adopted a weekly ritual of sitting down and writing a piece of flash fiction from scratch, perhaps starting with only a visual image in my mind, allowing everything, characters, plot, scenery, universe, etc; to create itself on the fly. This has always rendered much better results for me then I expect at the outset. Perhaps in trying so hard to write a masterpiece, I sometimes forget that spontaneity of concept may prove more effective in the long run, so long as the regime is maintained.
Yes, I know; this makes me the polar opposite of Charles Dickens, and so be it. Dickens was a master at what he did, and I like to think I’m not half bad myself, for what I do. Anyone trying to simply reproduce greatness has got it all wrong. The greats are great because of the uniqueness of what they created/create. Dickens didn’t set out to replicate anyone or even to be a writing genius. He set out to write and he had a real talent for it (and plenty of time to walk and sculpt every tiny little minutia of each story). Will I, or any other modern writer, become a long-lasting great rivaling the level of Coleridge, Chaucer, or Cervantes? No, though for different reasons than the obvious lack of linguistic dexterity displayed by this blog’s author. Perhaps I’ll go into that soon too. I know I can always enjoy writing more, and that’s enough to keep me going.