Friday, October 17, 2014

The commitment to write

A conversation with a friend

It's just after lunch and I am multitasking my time between completing an outline, cleaning (more like finding) my office, and figuring how to create an interactive On Air Hangout on Google+. Amidst all of this I find time to sneak onto Facebook every so often to check in on my feed.

First of all, if you want to be a successful writer, Facebook needs to go away while you are in writer mode. However, I was able to catch  a Messenger notification from an old friend from my anime convention days. Although we keep in touch through Facebook posts, we rarely use private messaging so I was curious to see what was up.

It turns out that she is going through some very personal and heavy problems, the kind that paralyzes you and makes you think what did you do to piss karma off. And through it all, she wanted to ask me one question: how would it be if she wanted to publish a book about her experiences?

It sounds like a simple question, and as a writer with now two published pieces (under my name anyway) it would seem that I am in a position to give a rather simple answer. But writing is not a simple process. In fact it is messy and fractitious (it's not a real word, but it should be). Writing pulls you apart and scrambles your emotions. It disrupts your life by having to stop what you're doing to write down moments of inspiration. You have to write before you can even think about getting published.

Writing takes Commitment
The commitment to write is not the same as having the discipline to write. Discipline involves a regimented schedule where you set aside certain times for writing and other tasks. But you can sit down during your required twenty minutes of writing and not write a single sentence. Then your timer goes off and you move on with nothing to show for your time. Commitment is taking that twenty minutes and encouraging your inner self to say something - anything - that it needs to get onto paper. It can be one or two sentences, or a whole page. The length doesn't matter so much as the content.

I passed along as much wisdom as I could in short sentences, giving her a brief outline of steps to take to help develop her writing. But what she was most concerned about was having the time to write. As a single mother of a toddler, it can be hard to find a free moment to sit down, collect your thoughts, and write down the important bits of your ideas. Most of the time, a parent's only thought of is "sleep." But she is thinking in a way that most people approach writing - the way we were all taught in school; every piece needs a beginning, a middle, and an end.

While this is true of all FINISHED works, the writing PROCESS does not require this. Again, all you need is the commitment to write, one sentence at a time, every day, until you have enough sentences to put together in the order that it needs. That is what drafts are for - taking your bits and pieces and putting them together in a logical order, like a puzzle.

Once the puzzle is finished, that is where the editing comes in, and your commitment to write is more important now than ever. This is where you have to take a hard look at your writing, the physical "birth" of your idea, and chop it up again. This is where you discover scenes or paragraphs that don't belong, characters that have no place in your narrative, and transitions that aren't transitioning like they're supposed to. You worked hard to write all this in, now you must commit to ax them out and rewrite those parts to flow back into your narrative.

During our online conversation, my friend went through a variety of interruptions and rants about her daily life. All the while lamenting the fact she had no time for writing. I told her she had useable writing right now, in the form of our conversation scrolling through our screens. Her rants were insights into the complicated life of a single mother, and written in the most authentic voice there is: a conversation between friends.

She has already taken the first step to commit to write, she reached out and had a conversation. I wish her the best in her writing endeavors and look forward to one day reading her book and "hearing" our conversation on the pages.

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