Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Breathe, and the air will come

here are some interesting things to be learned from keeping a public blog (for nearly six years, in my case). Here's a big one: you can't wait for inspiration to come to you before you start to write. I mean, I can't speak for others' experiences, but when I try doing it that way, I end up writing nothing. Maybe it's a good excuse not to write -- "The Muse has not deigned to visit me today" -- but for me, writing is like faith, in that it's a principle of action, a reliance on that which cannot be seen or proven. Just waiting for good ideas to come? Doesn't work for me. But sitting down in front of an empty white screen and starting to tap out black letters, no matter how randomly I begin -- something about that act itself must stimulate the secret, alchemical part of the brain that spins straw into gold. Because as I sit typing, trying to figure out what I'm thinking and what's going to happen next, the rain starts to come down on my parched brain. Some days it's just a soft shower -- an idea or two, or a short story -- and some days it's a deluge, a downpour, and I end up not being able to remember everything that flowed through my head. But as long as I sit and type, as long as I make the effort to do my goofy little rain dance on the screen, the clouds will form and grow heavy overhead and something will come. I've seen it happen often enough to believe that's how it's meant to work.

A fair number of authors talk about a particular story coming into their minds, wholly formed and ready to be typed out. That doesn't happen to me very often. I'm more of a patchwork writer, finding interesting little bits and pieces, cutting them to size and sewing them into the narrative as I go along. Snippets of story will sit on my hard drive for a long time, and I'll add to them or cut them or fiddle around with them, or just ignore them for long stretches. Eventually, if they're any good, they'll go into something. Even bad writing is never wasted, if you believe Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000-hour rule of mastery; failures just help you knock the dross and sludge out of your prose. At least, that's my plan.

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