Thoughts about not being able to choose.

When it comes to writing, there is a dark truth that few will acknowledge, let alone speak of.  Sometimes you don’t get to choose what you write.

It’s a strange phenomenon that confounds even the greatest writer and is more frustrating than writer’s block.

You can have the greatest idea for a story, with all the notes readily at hand, and yet; once you start typing it all falls apart like dried clay.  Your fingers stumble on the keyboard.   Your mind becomes overly focused on details so small as to be irrelevant.  Narrative drags and plods along with no sense of flow until finally you get bogged down in the mire and morass of what used to be a great story.  If you ever fished it would be akin to making a great cast with your pole only to see the line twist, flip, jumble, and knot itself until it becomes a giant bird’s nest upon your reel.

In either case, there’s only one thing left to do.  Cut the line and start all over.

That’s what I did yesterday.  I had this great idea for a science fiction short story.  I had the idea, plot, narrative, and mindset all figured out.  I knew who the players were; What was going to happen; and how it all would end.  The perfect story in my mind.  Then it all fell apart the moment my fingers touched the keyboard.  I couldn’t get anything to flow.  It just wouldn’t translate from my mind to the screen.

Was the story that weak?  Did I subconsciously not like it enough to not want to write it?  Did my day job’s experience affect my creativity?  Or was it something else?  I don’t know.  All I knew is that I had a self-imposed deadline looming and that I needed to come up with something worth writing.  So I fell back on an old lesson.  I took a picture that grabbed my attention and made a writing exercise out of it.  I told myself to just write without overly thinking and limited my time so that I wouldn’t obsess on the details.   I got a general idea when I looked at the picture of what the story would be, but I had no idea of how the characters would develop or the how the scene would play out.  I just typed and learned about it as I went along.  In the end I had a decent story, but was surprised by the amount of swearing in it.  That’s why the disclaimer at the top.  Jack was an idiot, but he was a real idiot and those words are exactly how he thinks and talks.  There was no way to edit them out without making Jack an unbelievable character.  Jack is who he is and to try and change him would be wrong.  The story was strong because of his cursing and swearing.  It would’ve been labored and plodding, if I had tried to edit it and push it into the way I wanted instead of the way it naturally wanted to flow.

And maybe that was went wrong with the sci-fi story.  Maybe I had so much information thought of and planned for the story that it couldn’t flow.  It just sat there in a frozen lake of information and could not break free.

I wanted to talk about this because I know that many of you have experienced or will experience this in your blogs or writings.  It happens and is the most frustrating thing period.  I wanted to show you how I get out of it, so maybe it will help you.  When it happens, drop everything and switch gears.  Go to a great photo site (I went to http://photonatureblog.com ) and scroll through the pictures until something catches your eye.  Look at it and then write.  Don’t think too much, let it flow.  Once you are done with it, reread it if you must and see if it’s not better than what you were planning in the first place.

As I stated before.  Sometimes we do not get to choose what we write.  Sometimes we must just write.

2 thoughts on “Thoughts about not being able to choose.

  1. Jack’s story might have worked better if he had: a) returned to an angry wife, b) gone to a bar, gotten drunker and into a fight, or c) returned to a monastery. To me it just ended too abruptly.
    When it comes to lost stories or lost ideas, I’ve had plenty. Often they were well detailed ones that flowed just fine.Surprisingly, a few returned unexpectedly at a later time.
    Keep up the great posts!

  2. I can see that point. In my mind, the story was about Jack dealing with the elements after his snow mobile broke down. What I should’ve done was emphasized more on the man vs. nature conflict as well as man vs self. THe story was supposed to be a shortened, modern take on London’s “To build a fire” without actually building that fire. What happened after he made into town would’ve been another story.

    As for the sci fi story, I hope it does come back. It is a great concept and I’d like to see what happens.

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