19 July 2011

Response to General Overachiever's "Questions" from July 10: Part 2

A few days ago Claire asked her friends the following: 

  • When you begin a new project, how do you choose to start? Do you plan it out first, mapping the steps and setting deadlines? Or do you dive in without more than a second thought? And either way, why?
I spent so much time answering the first question I am going to have to do this one separately because it is an important question. It should be noted however that I am not famous or considered any type of expert at anything so if you choose to follow my methods or advice you do so at your own peril.


A project for me begins with the most engaging part of the story or poem. I used to call these "thunder bolt lines" because they take awhile to make their impact fully known (think of the flash then the boom) and because I usually end up a little deaf and blind afterwards, that is, I feel sick until I can write it down. That's as close as I get to some magical fairy like muse experience. The rest is all good ol' fashioned elbow grease and maybe a little (read lot of) wine or scotch. 

Recently, the thunder bolts have ended up being titles rather than lines which is interesting to me. 

The elbow grease mentioned is usually research. I haven't been a law enforcement officer or a world renowned painter in a creative rut so I have to read up on it. For this novella like thing I have been writing for a year or so now I intend to do research on painting. The world renown part is all my creative hubris imagining what it will be like when everyone worships and anthologizes me. I am also considering practicing with a handgun at a shooting range for the only novel I can honestly say I have ever attempted to write. They say "write what you know" and you can't know everything, but sometimes you have to write about everything so research, even for creative work, is important. 

Now "writing" for me is a generous term. The above mentioned longer works of fiction are being written mostly in my head at the moment. The novella, actually is entirely in my head and while not concretely productive, it is still important. It prevents the story from being tainted by the wrong kind of critics. I believe in making a story mine before I get it out there. Others probably disagree with me.

Poems are a bit of a different beast. My preferred method of working on a poem is something of an ekphrastic method, i.e. writing about art. I typcially do that not by actually writing poems about pottery or something but by writing poems while or directly after reading the work of a good poet or in many cases the news. I am not sure what the merits of this are but it is fun. 

Finally, I do not pretend to know when a piece is finished. I know what I am trying to get across but I never know if I am getting that through to others. When, and only when, I am certain that a piece might possibly be finished does it see the light of day to anyone but myself and perhaps a first reader. Advice from friends is one way to see where it is and rejection from a magazine or publisher is another. Both are good.

My answer to Claire's final question, the one about organization, should be self evident. 

If not:

1 comment:

  1. "I know what I am trying to get across but I never know if I am getting that through to others."

    I'd have to say this is the biggest struggle of them all. Subjectivity can be so cruel at times. Or, it can just make you work harder.

    Our polar opposite styles of organization and planning are quite hilarious.