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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Writing Weirdness

"A writer begins by breathing life into his characters. But if you are very lucky, they breathe life into you." from Walking on Alligators: A Book of Meditations for Writers, by Susan Shaughnessy

"We work in the dark – we do what we can – we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art." Henry James

"The creative power, which bubbles so pleasantly in beginning a new book, quiets down after a time, and one goes on more steadily. Doubts creep in. Then one becomes resigned. Determination not to give in, and the sense of an impending shape, keep one at it more than anything." Virginia Woolf

Last week I noticed that the scene I was working on was running too long and seemed to have no point. Yet I couldn’t stop writing it. Teddy Bentley, my zookeeper/sleuth from the humorous "The Anteater of Death," was trying to tell Zorah, the Gunn Zoo director, that she’d just discovered something important about the koala keeper who’d just been murdered, only to have Zorah refuse to let her talk. The more Teddy tried to impart her information, the more quickly Zorah interrupted her, even stopping at one point to take a telephone call.

Now, since I begin my writing day at 4 a.m., I’m used to writing nonsense. It usually takes me about an hour before I wake up and begin to make sense, but I’d been writing this mess for two full hours and the scene just kept getting longer and longer without making any sense at all! But, taking my own advice, I persevered. By 8 a.m. I was writing fanatically, giving Teddy more pleas to be heard, more interruptions by Zorah. Then suddenly -- Eureka!

I realized that I’d finally, and unconsciously, typed a sentence that made the entire scene make sense. Not only that, but the sentence was so funny that I darned near fell out of my chair laughing. That seemingly "pointless" scene had tied together two separate plotlines into one neat package, while delivering a punch line worthy a stand-up comedian.

Sometimes our unconscious mind knows what it’s doing long before our conscious mind does. In that, the unconscious mind is like a wild beast. We have to have the courage to let the Wild Beast do its beastly thing. Later, our conscious mind -- our editor mind -- can go back and tidy up the rough spots. But without the Wild Beast’s snarlings and flailings, there would be nothing to tidy up -- just a blank page.

"One day you will read what you have written and see that it is absolute dog shit. So just write some more dog shit." Anonymous

"By perseverance the snail finished the race." Anonymous

"That Anonymous guy really gets around." Betty Webb


P.A.Brown said...

Yeah, Anonymous is a know-it-all with a big mouth.

I love those sweet moments when something comes together, whether through stream of consciousness or just plain exhaustion. Funny how being half asleep opens your mind to things. LOL.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Glad to hear even you have problems at times--also glad to hear you get over them.


Janette Rallison said...

I just wish there was a way to have my subconcious do all the work. That way I could watch tv and eat M&Ms and not have to struggle and delete so much.

Great post!

Sophia said...

My conscious thoughts bang and whang loud enough that I make nothing but chaos. When I finally exhaust myself, then my unconcious mind sneaks through, picks out a few usable items and creates something worthwhile.

Ann Littlewood said...

Yeah, it is so wonderful when something delightful and unexpected comes together. It feels like the muse speaking through me, nonetheless I pat myself on the back for an hour!

Betty Webb said...

I'ts amazing how many people are connecting to this. That Wild Beast (and Anonymous) really gets around, doesn't it?

Heidiwriter said...

Wow, what a great AHA moment! That is great encouragement, just to keep writing! I tell other writers in my groups this, but sometimes I fail to follow my own advice!