Finding the Well: Stepping-Stones In the Writing Process

In both my present life as an author and my past experience as a teacher of English composition, I’ve had occasion to think a lot about the process of writing. Many words have been written about it by many people, and it still remains a mystery; a riddle with as many solutions as there are people who put pen to paper or fingers to a keyboard. So, I’ll offer a few solutions I’ve found along my own path.

The first step is Regularity—set aside a specific time and a specific place in which to write. As with training in various schools of meditation, the cultivating of the habit of writing—and the creation of a space and time where that habit can flourish—is invaluable to a writer.

Confidence is important. Remove ‘can’t’ from your vocabulary. If you want to write, you will write. How well may vary at first, but if you keep at it, you’ll improve steadily, until the line between what’s in your head and what comes out on the page blurs and fades more and more. Also know this: Improvement happens with revision, too.

Coming up with a ‘plot’: Don’t ‘come up with a plot.’ Create characters who are particular unto themselves, with individual looks, personalities, flaws, virtues, dreams and goals. Create a world for them to walk around in. A story, not a plot, will emerge from the characters. Don’t get in the way of your characters; don’t ‘make them do’ things. Treat them like people, not action figures from a toybox, and your audience will see the difference.

Characters: These are the people whom your story exists to serve. Listen to them. You are the channel; the conduit. Your characters are in charge, and if they weren’t there, your story wouldn’t be either.

Market/Audience: Don’t write what you think is popular. That changes too often, and any story can be sold. Write what you like, write it well, and someone else will like it too. Don’t worry if not everyone likes your work: you can’t please everyone.

“Writer’s Block”: This is a fiction made up to keep the beginner from writing, and to give the experienced author an excuse to do something else. If you feel ‘blocked’, what you are likely feeling is a pressure to have everything in the story fit just so; a tension that that day’s output won’t be as good as everything else has been. DON’T WORRY ABOUT THIS. Sit down and write something; put some words on the page, even if they don’t fit into The Project. The words will start to flow, and you’ll feel better.

And One More Thing: Writing is a process. REVISION IS YOUR FRIEND. No one ever gets it right in one draft. It might take forty. Count yourself in for the long haul, and don’t despair.

These are things that are true for me, even if the way I wrote them makes them sound like Law. They are for me, they may not be true for you. But, if you find yourself stumbling down the Writer’s Road in the middle of the night, trying to find the Well of inspiration—these few suggestions may provide a little candlelight amidst the shadows and the dark.well

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