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I've been going through an enforced creative silence this past six weeks. I got the book done, it's my first serious attempt. It's huge, it's daunting. I'm sleeping on it, letting it percolate.

Yesterday, I got back to it. Worked over the Synopsis yet again with a writerly friend; took her suggestions on board, reworked, rewrote a few parts. More or less happy with the results.

Now I need to add another scene to the final chapter. I left a couple of threads dangling that didn't need tying up, but they needed to be headed in the direction of where they will go in the next book, so that's what I'm up to now.

But I wanted to stop and share something that I found really inspirational, and really helps me to get started up again. During these six weeks, I've been reading up on the craft of writing, listening to podcasts, doing all those things I should have done at the beginning, but being a stubborn twit, left off until I got the book done.

See, when I was writing it, I didn't write it. It wrote itself. I had an idea: some memories, some characters, a backdrop of a world, and then I just let it go. It immediately got out of hand, so rather than trying to control it, I let it do what it wanted. Every chapter, the characters would line up, step forward, and play out their parts. My purpose was just to feel for them, watch them, and describe what I was feeling and seeing.

Did I write the book, then, or did they? Well, I'm inclined to think they did. Why? Because that was my experience of it. It wasn't me who was part of it, I was just tagging along for the ride, pushing keys on a keyboard and trying find just the right words to express what was going on.

Since then, I'm learning that it's really more about just sitting down at the keyboard and doing it, whether it works or not. Bum in chair, Mr. King, bum in chair. Somehow, intuitively, I knew this was true, but then I saw this little talk on TED by Elizabeth Gilbert, and the light went on:

It's true. Nobody should take credit for their own work. Not only is it destructive, but it's a lie. You are not responsible for your subconscious mind and what bubbles up out of it. It doesn't really matter how you describe it, what terms you use, only that you recognize that there is much inside you that is not you. What you are creating is not something from your being, but something that you are there to shed light on. Something that came from everyone and everywhere around you, and from the past and your hopes and dreams that were put there by others and things and your interactions with them.

I often see the overpayed CEO as an example of this same thing at work. Sure they're important, but what good would they be if they didn't have the support of their workers, their investors, and sheer dumb luck to get them along? We spend far too much time lauding the individual for things they are totally unable to control, and we are often blaming ourselves for things we had no part in doing, all because of the illusion of the "me" being the source of all that a person is.

I know for my part, I'm at best a peninsula or archipelago, not a single, unified island-being. But even if I was, why should I take credit for the sound of the sea crashing on my shores? Eh? Answer me that.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 16th, 2009 02:09 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Barry, thanks so much for posting this clip from TED. It was just what I needed. I am just learning my way around livejournal and happened to find your post.

Question -- how do I share this? When I clicked on the "share" button, it flashed some text on how to do it and then disappeared.

Congrats on getting to the end of your first draft.
Sep. 16th, 2009 02:34 pm (UTC)
Re: Thank you!
You know, I'm not sure what to recommend you do, because you have options. I do a lot of html coding by hand, so normally I'd just link to the page using a link. If you want to show someone this post, that's what you'd do.

If you want to show people where to go to the video on the TED site, you can hit the share button and then copy the link text out of the appropriate box and use it in your post. If you wanted to post the video on your own journal, you'd copy the embedded text and paste that into an entry. I did this last one to make it show up here.
Sep. 29th, 2009 08:04 pm (UTC)
Congratulations! It's such an accomplishment to get that manuscript done. I hope our critique group gives you what you need in terms of feedback...

BTW, I have my own good news which is leading me to ask you a favour. Do you think you could not put my name at the very top of the list for critique posting - unless you've already worked out the order.

I just got approved as a DigitalJournalist http://www.digitaljournal.com/user/865406 which means I will be expected to submit some articles ASAP. Meanwhile my other critique group (live, this Thursday!) has begun.

Naturally I am ready and willing to critique as soon as we start. Thanks again for agreeing to be the moderator.


Sep. 29th, 2009 11:01 pm (UTC)
Re: Congratulations!
Congrats yerself; hope that digital journalism position works out for you; what are you liable to be writing about?

I have my other crit group starting as well the following Wednesday; isn't that a coincidence? I guess it must be Winter coming in and everyone wondering what they're going to do with the long nights.

Don't worry about your position in the writing group. I'll be asking around to see who's ready first. You're only near the top now because your handle begins with "c".
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )