Saturday, October 20th is America’s National Day on Writing, and I’d like to share with you a few things I love about it.
Top 5 Things I Love About Writing
5. Ideas – Writers are dreamers, noticers, imagination junkies, and we’re sometimes accused of spying. If you notice a stranger listening to your conversation, it might not be a creeper – it’s possible your conversation has snagged the attention of a writer, trolling for ideas.
I love getting a good idea. Getting a good idea feels like the universe has given you a gift, a little ball of brilliance that, if you don’t write it down RIGHT NOW, will slip through the grasping fingers of your mind like so many grains of sand. That’s why I carry my little red notebook with me everywhere. I fill them up and keep them secreted away in my writing bag, like a library of golden ideas.
A GREAT idea is like a little brother, won’t leave me alone, constantly follows me around, nagging me, wanting my attention, until I finally explore it, play with it, get it down on the floor and wrestle it into submission. And those are usually the most rewarding pieces once I’m finished.
4. Finishing a draft - When you’ve finally sat down and done the work of writing, it can feel like you’ve run a grueling marathon, or the words can flow from your fingertips like a river of brilliance. Whether you struggled through the actual writing of your draft or it was as easy as falling off a log, nothing beats the feeling of writing “THE END” (literally or metaphorically) when you’ve finished the first draft. You know it’s rough, you can see the revision road ahead might be bumpy, but for now, it’s like the chocolate cake after finishing a satisfying meal. You roll the taste of your victory around in your head and that moment is the stuff of happiness.
3. Revising – When I’m at the beginning of revision, it can feel like standing on the edge of the ocean, knowing that I have to swim across using only a pen and my imagination – a grueling feat of endurance. But, in reality it’s closer to how my mom always feels the day before Thanksgiving, with a kitchen full of groceries and all the work ahead of chopping, spicing, mixing, cooking, baking and cleaning still ahead of her. Even though it’s a lot of work, there’s plenty of joy to be found in the process and there’s always a feast at the end. It’s incredibly satisfying to take my draft apart, find the best pieces, add what is missing, mix it back up, try new things, and end up with something undoubtedly better and tastier than I started with. There is art in cooking, and there is definitely an art to revising.
2. Murdering my precious darlings. Yes, you heard me right – murder. Not the kind of murder that will have you calling 9-1-1, but instead, killing off the pieces of my writing that while I might love them and think they are brilliant, really don’t add anything to the overall piece of writing. Fashion icon Coco Chanel famously advised that whenever you think you’re ready to go, look in the mirror and remove one thing. It’s good advice. Do I really need that scene where the main character discovers the vampire alien squirrels nesting in her mother’s sock drawer, or have I left it in there only because it makes ME smile. Slash. Do I really need FOUR girls to be the minions of the main mean girl, or could I get the same effect with just two girls? Slash. Does the main character really need a sidekick AND a trusty canine friend? Or do I just keep the dog because I like how it looks in my own mind? Slash. It’s surprisingly freeing to cut the ties that are binding my writing and keeping it from being great.
1. Sharing it with others – This is both the worst and the best thing about writing. As all writers know, as much as we say otherwise, you never really finish a piece of writing – you just orphan it, send it off into the world of other people. Immediately after I hand my work over to someone else’s care, I think of the thousand and one ways that it’s not ready to go out into the cruel world on its own. It’s just not ready yet. And then…the waiting. Oh, the endless waiting while they read – is it good enough? Will they laugh where I want them to? Will they like my characters? Will they find my words pleasing and interesting or will they sound bland and unoriginal? It makes me want to snatch it back out of their hands and run off to hide it away.
But then…I get to hear what they think. Good, bad, or otherwise, I will find out if my writing stands the test of other minds. When it doesn’t, it drives me to be better, make changes, start over, write a best version that will please both me and the other minds. But when someone else is moved by my writing, laughs about it, comes away thinking about it, finds something in it that makes them think, it feels like winning. A victory of epic proportion, and that drives me too.
So, I leave you today with the following question – What do you love about your writing?