Sunday, June 7, 2009

Your Creative Process or The Importance of Abandoning Crap

I wrote in one of my daily blogs this week about finding a great link from twitter to a series of videos of Ira Glass speaking about the story process. I promised I would write more about it on today's blog.
Hopefully you can follow my thought processes on this...I was on twitter when I saw this tweet by @ThereseWalsh "Not enough gets said about the importance of abandoning crap." Ira Glass on Storytelling I thought- BINGO- the importance of abandoning crap. So many would-be writers spend years on the same story- the same few chapters-not moving on until they get someone to tell them those chapters are perfect and will garner them an immediate sale and NYT bestseller listing... except it won't. It doesn't work that way. Some people cling to a story thinking it is the only one they have in them... maybe it is... most likely it's not. The point being to finish the story-it's imperfections are what make it unique. Then move on to a second story. You can revise story one and query for it once you start story two.
What? you say, no!-- one thing at a time... Listen trust me. Stories need to peculate or cook. Finish story one and then start story two. Give story one time to cook. Then go back. You have to write more than one full book to discover your story learn, to grow. Each person's process is different and that's OKAY. Really.
Unfortunately, as I've mentioned before, writer's are superstitious. Due to the vast subjectivity of what gets published, what gets marketed, etc. This superstition leads us to search out "rules" that will give us instant searching for the perfect diet that will make us all slim, beautiful and young for life... Which leads to a lot of so called "rules of craft" out there. Now, don't get me wrong most of these are valid and important to learn. But following them does not mean you will be published and dazzle with your talent and hit the Times list the first time out. No matter how many people tell you "it's a rule."
A few years into my "writer's journey" I had written five full manuscripts, hired an agent, fired an agent, I was told by a "published author"..."Your problem is you write too fast." What? "You write too fast. You skip too much. You're all over the place." Huh. An unpublished critique partner of this author nodded. "That was my problem. I wrote too fast. I've since slowed way down and really take care with my words." (To this day she is still unpublished.)
How does this relate to Ira Glass?-- in the video, he said that what people don't talk about is how much time it takes to find a good story. How many stories you have to sift through to find the one that sparkles. This hit me. That is what I do. (Thank you Ira for validating my process) My writing process is fast because I'm exploring the stories in my head, sifting and creating, searching for the one that will draw you in and entertain you. Or sifting through the ways to best tell a story that I know is good, but I've just not written it right yet. It's MY process. And yes, I have learned "the importance of abandoning crap." Some of my stuff is crap. *shrug* It's a process.
But you can't know it's crap until you write it-all the way through. Think of it like cooking. You see a recipe-sounds good- you try it. It tastes bad. You throw it out. BUT- a good cook will think about what made it taste bad-over cooked, too much salt, a wrong ingredient...and try again. It's part of the creative process. No one just cooks the first dish perfectly-there are too many variables-oven temperature, humidity, etc. And no one-no one- can be a chef if they don't ever finish a recipe all the way through.
Write the entire book...write another... learn your process... abandon the crap that doesn't work...use your process as the basis for your career and you will succeed. And more importantly if you need a published author to validate your process- I'm here, right now to tell you that when you finish a book-no matter how you finished the book- your creative process is valid. Now- go write another.

(Ira Glass speaks on story telling using video-but his words work for writing as well. A special Thank You to Therese Walsh for the link.)


Nancy J. Parra said...

Oh, my, was this post too much of a soap box moment? LOL
Funny how after 10 years and nine published books, I still felt guilty that I write too fast.


~Sia McKye~ said...

Immediate Best Seller list? Not bloody likely. Not to say it doesn't happen occasionally, but 9 out 10 it doesn't.

Good topic, how to and when to abandoned crap. I like your analogy with writing and being a chef. As someone who enjoys cooking international foods, I know that you have to try the recipe. After you have practiced many recipes, you can look at the bare bones of one and even know where you have to adjust spices or the amount of this ingredient or that to get the results you want.

You make a good point, finish. Then move on. Experience comes in the doing, not the thinking about it. :-)

Charlie said...

Crap you say? Me?

More than half I write is crap but I'm loving every minute of it. (Realizing I have such a long way to go, I have little pressure to query. Maybe that's why.)

Marty said...

I wish that "I write too fast" was my problem - unfortunately finding time to write slows me down considerably.

I spend a lot of time worrying that I am just writing crap, but I continue to write because getting done is the only way to know WHAT exactly I have done.

Pamala Knight said...

Nancy if you were any smarter, I might get a complex about sitting next to you at the next meeting, but as it happens I am totally thrilled that you're so brilliant!

That was one of the most uplifting and awe-inspiring posts I've read. It is especially important for writers (accomplished and not quite there yet) to remember that there will be a lot of voices surrounding the writing process. It's so important to adapt your own style and process to what makes for personal success.

Thank you for sharing this. You're the best!


Justus M. Bowman said...

I'm hard at work on unmanure. I hope.

Nancy J. Parra said...

OMG- I got up this morning to lots of fabulous comments! Thanks, everyone!

I really think you have to write crap to be there where the brilliant stuff happens.

You all are brilliant!!

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

I loved this post. Funny how guilt hangs around even when you know you are doing what works for you. I, too, have to write all the way through a story as quick as I can without worrying about details so I don't lose momentum. By the time I get to the end, I know my characters so much better. I let it sit a while and when I start the revision, it's like visiting old friends.

Jane Kennedy Sutton

Marilyn Brant said...

Nancy, I love the analogy to cooking because it's so spot on! Thanks for reminding us to find what works for each of us personally. Every new book, every new recipe is a bit of an experiment, isn't it? I don't want my writing life to be like "Hell's Kitchen" with someone dictating how I should do it...

BTW, I get *so* tired of people telling me to write faster (I *can't* write faster!!), so those who pester you about writing too fast must be, IMO, just very jealous :).

Nancy J. Parra said...

Marilyn - I LOVE the reference to Hell's kitchen... very true. I may use that sometime in an article... (I'll use your name if I do. :-)

Kathryn Magendie said...

I agree- I never try to tell writers how to write or that they "aren't really writers if . . . " !

I've learned to hit delete delete delete (or leave stories sitting in my computer that either i'll never try to published, but wanted to write anyway, or maybe one day will go back to)..... I recently deleted 30,000 words from the novel I need to finish by summer's end- scary? yes, because I have to replace those 30,000 and fast! (and I've replaced 20,000 of them -whew!) ....but, better that than to have crap in the novel!

I write fast too - really fast --- doesn't mean I don't go back and fiddle dee dee with it - but my "way" is to just plunge in and go and my "way" is to write fast -kazooom! *smiling*