“I often think that the best writing is done after you’ve forgotten what you wanted to say, but end up putting something down anyway just as though it were the actual evidence of your original intention.” Clarence Major
Has this happened to you? When you sit down to write, the idea won’t come, the original thought stalls. The words are stuck in your finger’s throat. But if you keep writing, put down the words that do come, soon something else emerges, something that does work and that you can be excited about.
Then, follow that new thought without letting the original thought tie you to a metaphorical iron post, simple (and as complicated) as that.
Sometimes our mind is changed before even we know it needs to be changed. There are many times when we must follow where we are led. What a journey! This is living, folks. This is writing. This is manipulating the language and story without constant constraint—ah.
“The use of point of view is to bring the reader into immediate and continuous contact with the heart of the story and sustain him there.” Tom Jenks
Your reader will see, feel/experience, and be through the “eyes” of the character who speaks. To me, the characters are not just the heart of the story, they are the story. My characters spark my imagination, and along with my setting (a whole other character, actually), they give me joy in my writing. As your characters should for you, or some variation of that feeling.
Consider photography. When I have the camera, I am the controller of that camera lens. I see and interpret through the lens and then I take snapshots so that others may see, or experience, what I have seen and experienced. Until I share the image I have captured, no one can know what I am thinking or feeling. I show them. I tell them.
If I hand the camera to George, he then sees everything through his own eyes/interpretations. I can’t know what he sees and what he is thinking, what has captured his imagination/interest, until he relays it to me by showing me the photo, and as well tells me about it—and through both the showing and the telling, I see and experience through his eyes/his experience.
We writers have the beautiful opportunity to give readers, through our character’s point of view, experiences that they can relate to, but also to allow our readers unique experiences through as many ways as we want to write.
“Surely the test of a novel’s characters is that you feel a strong interest in them and their affairs—the good to be successful, the bad to suffer failure.” Mark Twain
If you are not interested in your characters and what they do and say and are, why should anyone else be interested? If you do not believe in your work, why should anyone else believe in your work? Believe me, it will show. The reader always knows.
Give readers your best. Give readers your heart. Give readers your interest. Give them the truths—and this word “truth” may mean more than what first appears to you. Writing what you know doesn’t have to be so literal, so concrete, for we can interpret it in as many ways as we allow ourselves to, as long as we speak a truth at the kernel of it, or even the whole of it.
“You start out putting words down and there are three things—you, the pen, and the page. Then gradually the three things merge until they are one and you feel about the page as you do about your arm. Only you love it more than you love your arm.” John Steinbeck
This quote resonates to my marrow more than any other. To write my published five novels and the novella; the published short stories, essays, articles; the blog posts on my own blog, here on WU, and on various other blogs; and then all the hundreds of thousands of words not published—some that never will be, some that one day may be—I’ve sacrificed time with family, friends, time “out in the world,” time doing something other than sitting before a blank page that fills up with what at times seems to be complete nonsense and self-indulgent pratterings. All without knowing how it would (and will) turn out for me and for my words and my worlds and my characters. That I often call writing “the one true love of my life” sounds a lonely and sad experience—it has been the love of my life, and with intense love also comes pain and abandonment and joy and euphoria and anger and madness. But giving it up meant a death, a rotting away from the inside out. To give up something I have fought so hard for and sacrificed much for has been painful.
Oh! But there are those times when the world as we know it goes away and our own inner world takes over, and soon the words come and the characters speak and the story forms and there is nothing else but this world, this place, this feeling we as writers are creating. Hours pass and at last we pause our fingers over the keys and look up and—wait! It can’t be three o’clock, for just a moment ago it was eleven o’clock. We have been to other-worlds, alternate universes, going gone, and the coming back to the real world is surreal—at times seemingly less real than the created world from which we’ve just left as we hit “save” and rise from our writer’s chair stiff-jointed and distant-gazed. If someone speaks to us or texts/calls us during this transition, we may not answer right away, because we aren’t quite yet ready to enter the real of reality.
Not every writer loves her craft. Not every writer enjoys manipulating the language. Not every writer is deliriously happy every time he sits down to work. Well, if you do not always love it, so what? If you want to write, then write. Write what excites you and motivates you and makes you happy, or, if you will, makes you money if that’s what you strive for and there’s nothing wrong with that goal because we have bills and mortgages to pay and wouldn’t it be lovely if our writing could pay them?—be it a novel, a short story, essay, a blog post, letters, family memoirs, journals, technical papers, recipes. You owe no one an explanation, or apology, for how you live your writer’s life.
Find your comfortable space, or challenge that comfy spot if you want to. Consider just why you do this thing you do, whatever it is you want to do. It is yours. It is This Thing You Do. And when you push it out into the world, strange and surreal and terrible and exciting birth, be proud of your accomplishment, and then go on to the next and the next and the next until you are done.
This is the writer’s life.
“Whatever you want to do, if you want to be great at it, you have to love it and be able to make sacrifices for it.” Maya Angelou
Any quotes you keep around your writing area that are dusty and old and yellowed and you forget they are there, then, suddenly, you see them and go, ‘hey! I like that quote; I’d forgotten all about it!’ and you gaze at it longingly and lovingly and then with sudden angst because you wish you were famous enough to write a quote that is put in writing areas by anxiety-ridden writers looking for just one ounce of hope out there in the echoing land of writers, and you throw the quote in the trash but then pull it out, smooth it, and place it right back with a smile and with a deep breath you get back to work or at least tell everyone or pretend that’s what you are doing when really you are writing an extremely long rambling question made to inspire comments but then you don’t want to make it seem like you really care about comments at all but sometimes you do and so you look up more quotes but can’t find any that relate to what you are right now feeling so you just trail off and . . . ?