All writers have a process that allows them to create. However, the art of "Writing" is often mistaken for that "Process." Hopefully this blog explains the difference, and inspires people to develop their crafts, become writers, or just keep on writing.

Monday, March 6, 2023

Following the Flow

About a lifetime ago, Chicago was buried under by a mammoth snowstorm which would go down in history as the Blizzard of '67. This was in the days before satellite imaging and hi-tech weather-tracking technology, so there was very little warning on just how bad this storm would be. Nowadays, we can see storms brewing days before they hit us, and we can track them in real-time. The technology is so advanced that I knew a week ahead of time about the storm coming into my area prepared to dump over a foot of snow on my house by Friday night. Well, three sad inches of snow later, one thing was clear: as much as we can see weather patterns, knowing where they will go is another story.

I bring this up to discuss a very interesting thing that occurs when we write. We can decide we want to write a particular story with a specific theme and a definitive purpose, but halfway through we feel something isn't quite right, and our writing is like walking into a strong headwind. Maybe we can identify just what is going wrong, maybe not. Whichever the case may be, the story has gone off-track and we are not sure why. It makes no sense - we are writing the story, so we should have full command over where it ends up, right?

Right. Just like we have command over which way the weather goes.

Just like those storms rolling in from the Great Plains states, we only know so much about them. We know what they are doing and the direction they should go, but that certainty has a pretty large range of error. With weather, we might not consider the rush of damp Gulf air rushing up from the south. In the case of writing, that unknown factor could be something our subconscious really wants to write about, but hasn't made obvious on the conscious level. This happens more than we think when we write, and can work to our advantage if we keep an eye out for it.

When I was writing my first novel, The Book of Cain, I was about halfway through the process of creating the whole story arc and such, and something wasn't right. It wasn't *clicking* for lack of a better term. The characters were there, the story moved along, but somehow, somewhere, the story arc tripped, stumbled, and came to a halt. Not the best feeling when the goal is to write a masterful piece of literature.

Kind of blocked, I had a few chats with different people, trying to figure out why I couldn't get the story where I wanted it to go. People offered me advice about how to get it back on track, but nothing fell into place. And then, tragedy entered my life, and with that sudden loss came a realization: The story I wanted to write wasn't the story in my heart. I had a much bigger, much deeper story brewing inside me, and a part of me was trying to tell that story but the rest of me was pushing the original tale that no longer felt sensible. In my grief, I realized the story I really wanted to write was there all along, but it wasn't the story I thought I wanted to write. I shelved a lot of my first draft, then set to writing the real story. That went really well.

When things aren't going right, step back from your work and ask yourself what you really want to write. Not what you want this story to do, but try to get in touch with what you are feeling. When a story feels like it's heading in the wrong direction, it might just be that you are not acknowledging where your inner writer wants the story to go. If you let yourself drift along with those feelings rather than your initial idea, you might just find a better story altogether.

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