Sunday, April 15, 2007

262. middles and endings

I've been doing reasonably well with my resolution to write more (see blog 259. I've come up with a lot of interesting beginnings, but not a lot in the way of middles or endings.

It's a strange thing, this writing business. To be honest, nine times out of ten as I'm writing, I'm riddled with self-doubt but more often than not, when I return to what I've written a few days or weeks later, I'm surprised at what I've done. This often gives me enough encouragement to continue the work but sure enough, once I've begun again, the doubts return.

It's a pretty vicious cycle. To be honest, I can see why so many writers are driven to drink. It's not easy to make that critical voice shut up. At the same time, I can see why other writers are such egomaniacs. Another way to shut that critical nerve down is to tell yourself that you're amazing, the best writer to ever put pen to page.

Me? Well, I don't drink to excess and I certainly don't have an ego (and damn proud of it). I suppose that's why the disciplined writing approach is the only sure way forward and encouraged by so many writing teachers.

I don't know. I guess I shouldn't be so hard on myself for writing so many beginnings. Maybe it'll be good to have all this seed material for when fresh ideas are nowhere to be found. Maybe that will be the time to write middles and pray for endings.

Writing is strange. There's a lot of faith involved, at least with the way that I write. I never know where a story will end up. I often don't even know what it's about. I just start out with a line or the vaguest notion of an idea. Starting with so little, it's an act of blind faith, believing that a story can be coaxed out of these humble beginnings. It involves a lot of waiting and listening. It involves a lot of trust.

What am I listening for? What am I trusting in? That's hard to describe. Maybe I should talk about the opposite, what it feels like when I'm in the zone.

There are rare moments when the stars align, when the juices are flowing and words are falling from the sky. In times like these, it's like I can't keep up. It's almost like the story is telling itself to me and I just have to get out of the way and try not to interrupt the flow by worrying about spelling or style. It's like each sentence is a key that unlocks the next idea and what I find when the doors fling open is a surprise that makes up the next sentence which, in turn, becomes another key and so on.

Times like that are few and very far between but that's what I listen for, that's what I'm trusting - that the hard headed, inspiration-be-damned-I'mgoing-to-write-anyway approach will wake the muse, draw her out from wherever she hides and that she will sing me a story, toss it into the air like weightless confetti and all I have to do is puck the words out of the sky like so many golden apples.

She hasn't been singing lately but she's been teasing me with hints and beginnings, seeds and clues, fits and starts. It's like I've been given a brief snippet of a melody and I'm trying to place the tune but no matter how hard I wrack my brain, I can't hear the complete song.

But I take what I can get. And I listen. And I trust.

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