It’s weird. So often when I sit down to write I find a thousand little distractions that keep me from the first keystroke. Now “a thousand” may seem like a slight exaggeration. But for a moment think the thoughts I’m thinking right now. If you dare. Any brain is a scary place full of dark holes, volatile short circuits, dead cells, gray cells And yuck for that matter, why is grey even a color? And what is the proper spelling? Is it grey or gray?
Are you catching my drift into distractions?
For a deeper dive into my dwindling mass of grey (or gray) cells, in the last ten minutes since my opening of “It’s weird.” I poured my second cup of coffee,checked the temperature of the tenderloin in the oven, began a long text to my daughter about the quality of the said tenderloin, deleted said text, and typed this additional paragraph that I will surely delete to spare you the distraction.
Or not delete?
If over the last 40 years of my life, I would have tallied every time I sat down to write or even went so far as to boldly schedule a time and turn on my laptop to write, I would have easily counted a thousand distractions. Or should I use the number 1,000 in the previous sentence? I seem to recall a writing rule to spell out one to ten, and after that it is proper to write a number numerically. I should check my Strunks and White for clarity on that rule.
But no. I will persevere with this piece rather than cave to another distraction, no matter how you the reader might wish I would stop, and release your eyes from this swamp of thought. Or perhaps lack of thought might be more appropriate. Though this piece has become like a car accident you are driving by which you just can’t quite pull your eyes away from to check out the bumper of the car in front of you which you narrowly avoid. And this reminds me of one of the 11 composition principles in the Strunk & White book Elements of Style.
Rule number 6, Omit needless words.
And that finally gets to the point of this piece.
Forget the rules when you create your first draft. Your first sketch. Use lots of words. Use lots of paint. Use lots of sketch pages. Use lots of clay. Write. Draw. Mold. Design. Create.
Creative writing energizes me. It always has, but since I never made a dime from it I always put my writing on the back burner. I would think “I’ll finish that story later”, I’ll take that screenplay class next year, I’ll join that writers group next month when I surely will have more time to commit. You know the routine, right?
And over the last 40 years I never did find the time. Or more accurately take the time to write and give bones and flesh to my story ideas. Until March of 2020 when Covid hit and locked us down. On December 19th I finished my first manuscript of a storyline that I began back in 1977 when I was in college. It is a piece of fiction and is totally trash. You couldn’t read it. My chapter transitions are not smooth. It does not follow most of the 11 composition principles. It lacks the 90,000 to 120,000 word average that makes up most novels. I only wrote 62,000 words. And yet the story I wanted to tell is written.
As I began to redraft my mess of a manuscript so I can submit it to an editor I realized just how good I feel to have written this story. Despite it being unreadable to others and breaking every rule of composition, the story is mine.
We are our own worst critics. I had to throw out all the rules when I began to write the story. I had to accept the fact that what I was writing would never be read by anyone as it was. Yet those days of pure imagination and keystrokes were some of the best days of my life. I felt more energetic, the sun shone brighter, the air was sweeter and my smile came easily.
Why did I allow the distractions to, well, distract me from creating my art? I don’t know. And I don’t need to know. I just needed to take heart that every book I read over the last 40 years on writing, written by an author, basically said the same thing. Write. Create. Then rewrite, if you want. Depending on what you want to do with the piece. Your first draft will be trash. A hard concept for this egocentric writer to admit.
I placed this blog and my podcast Whiskey and Art on hold while I grappled with my failure to write a 90,000+ word story. A failure is how I saw my story because of the average word count of a novel. To use a rather curious cliche, I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. Which makes me wonder what gives a cliche a life of its own? I mean how do they start? Who started the popular ones?
Don’t become distracted by your self doubt or by the art “rules” or especially by the utter nonsense you create in your own head. Write. Paint. Draw. Design. Create. In the end it’s not about the reader or the viewer, your creation is about your need and desire to create art.
So write on baby! Or was it “right on”? Well it was the 70’s and that was many years and distractions ago