Thursday, May 17, 2012

Stories and Creation

It's about time I get back to writing. I actually have discovered that writing, for me, is an itch, and if I don't scratch it, I get grumpy. Very grumpy. Sometimes I'm not sure I even like it, but I am actually compelled to do it. The other day, I was editing a couple of investment commentaries and I realized the real satisfaction I have in playing with words, moving them around, trying new combinations to improve the style. As I have mentioned before, writing can be scary, and as with many things in life, if you don't believe you have talent or that you love it enough to try, you can be easily swayed. I once worked for a well-meaning person who I think believed that there was one way to write and if your writing didn't fit that mold, well, it was just wasn't "good." I allowed that tunnel vision to slowly erode my self-confidence. The one thing I always felt I could do well - writing- seemingly was not something I was actually good at. Perhaps I tie my self worth too closely to perceived abilities, but that was a huge blow, one I am finally starting to recover from.

Well, on to the real point of this post, which is the idea of where stories come from. One of my frustrations in writing is feeling like I need to have a plot completely mapped out from the beginning. I was working on one particular idea and couldn't get it to go anywhere. I truly ignored the fact that sometimes plots need to evolve on their own as you write, or that perhaps I'm just not that kind of plot-driven writer, and that's ok. No, the plot needed to be planned and if not, then the idea was rubbish and I had to scrap it. You can see where this is going. My story was not going anywhere and after months of fits and starts, I dropped it. I kind of pushed it into a dark closet (literally) and shut the door, another (perceived) failure. But yet....the story, or at least the germ of the story and some of the ideas I had continued to whisper in my ear. No matter how hard I tried, how hard I pushed and how hard I tried to keep busy with other things, they wouldn't go away. My lovely writer friend, Sara, who has written a memoir, has encouraged me and asked and generally kept me honest about it. She was the one who pointed out that I didn't need to have a plot determined from the get go, yet I stubbornly persisted in arguing this point. "Let him tell the story," she said.

Yesterday, as I was thinking a bit more about the evolution of a story and a plot, I realized that really and truly, a plot, a story can emerge bit by bit. As writers, aren't we, in fact, creating another world? Creating lives, allowing characters to form, change, grow? As with life, we're not plotted from the moment we're born. Moments strung together, interactions, relationships, events...woven together, this becomes our plot and sometimes it is better to let it emerge as it will. When we try to force, life resists. When we try to plan, God laughs. And so it is with stories. You write a word, and then a sentence, and then a paragraph. Somewhere in there, a voice emerges, and it begins. One foot in front of another.