I think of myself as a multi-tasking writer. Before that conjures up all kinds of thoughts as to what I might be referring to, allow me to explain. And I’ll back up a bit to the days when I was a sort-of writer.
That was when I wrote stories. Sort of.
They were more like pieces of stories. Paragraphs I liked. Sentences I liked. Dialogue I liked. Words I liked. None of them really fit together into one cohesive story. But I had fun writing them and I have notebooks full. Lots of notebooks.
Recently, I came across some of these notebooks and I started reading my sort-of writing. Some of it is pretty pathetic. But a good deal is actually quite good. So good, in fact, that I’ve begun picking up these pieces of stories and fitting them into my novels in progress.
Yes, you read that correctly. Novels. As in plural.
This is where the multi-tasking writer comes in.
I write books like I read books. I always have three or four or more on the go at any given time. A book in every room, so to speak, and this decades-old simultaneous reading habit of mine has spilled over into my writing life. In case you’re wondering . . . no, I don’t get them mixed up. Ever. Not the reading. Not the writing.
Obviously this method will not work for everyone. And I’m sure there are writers/editors/publishers out there reading this who think I’m totally nuts to say it works for me. But it does. I make no excuses or apologies. The hardest part about it is to make sure I put the scraps of paper in the appropriate file or save the Word docs in the right Dropbox folder. In my mind, however, it’s all neatly organized.
This is how my brain works.
The pieces are there for the picking. Simply insert and continue.
Of course, it takes longer to finish a book this way.
Once upon a time there was a little girl who wanted to be a writer. She loved to put words on paper and read them back to herself when she thought no one was listening. Her daydreams were full of stories about beautiful princesses and handsome knights in shining armor and fire-breathing dragons who were actually good people under wicked spells. The girl would tell these stories to her younger sisters who believed every word she said.
The little girl grew older and although she still had lots of stories in her head, she discovered that her friends and family weren’t as enthusiastic about her writing anymore. They told her to grow up and stop living in a fantasy world. They told her that she was just imagining things that could never happen and that her stories were stupid. So the girl let them think that she’d forgotten about being a writer, and from then on she tried to be what they wanted her to be. She worked very hard at doing what she thought were the right things to do in order to fit in, but she never really felt like she did. Fit in, that is. And for many years she didn’t write anything at all.
Then the girl fell in love with a boy who didn’t care that she was different. As a matter of fact, he loved her more because she was. He believed in her, encouraged her, and pushed her along in her dream to be a writer. It took a long time, because they had children and the girl had to work to make ends meet, and there were so many other things to occupy her time. But eventually, when the girl was a grandmother, she became a writer. It was then that she realized something.
She’d been a writer all along.
I’m writing a novel – two, actually – and as much as I would love to be able to sit down and let inspiration do its thing through my fingers on the keyboard, that’s not how it works. One thing I’ve discovered: inspiration is only an idea. And that idea won’t become something tangible until after you start writing. That’s the hard part.
Isn’t it the same in every area of our lives? We can have the greatest ideas in the world, but they remain ideas until we act on them.
I used to say that I was an idea person. I was pretty proud of the way I could come up with all kinds of grand and lofty things. But the follow-through was not for me, I’d say, and I’d leave those ideas for other people to carry out. I’d take the credit, of course. How dumb. How arrogant. How take-the-easy-way-out.
It wasn’t until I had my own business that I realized that if I had an inspirational moment, there was nobody to do the work but me. I would have to take that idea, plan its execution, and do it myself. A very sobering lesson.
Life as a writer requires the same evaluation. While the ideas are endless and everything is a possibility, the actual writing can be a disaster. Or a stroke of genius. The bottom line is that in order to be a writer, you have to write. All the time. Even when you don’t feel like it, and especially when that moment of inspiration takes you to places you’d never thought of before.
There’s a spiritual lesson here as well, but I’ll leave that for another day . . .