Following yesterday’s post, here are a few more surprises about writing to smack me straight in the face. What’s surprised you about the writing process, if you’re a writer?
- WRITING IS…. HARD. My first novel taught me a lot, and one of those things: writing is hard. Much harder than I ever imagined. It’s a learning process; no one’s born knowing how to write well. That’s why J.K. Rowling gave the advice to aspiring writers, in an interview years back, to write. I remember exactly what she said: Write and write, and throw it in the rubbish bin until you write something that doesn’t belong in the rubbish bin. I didn’t start out writing my first horrible novel thinking it would be horrible and I’d do nothing with it. But the process of toiling with it time and time again, draft after draft, honed my skills and taught me how to write. When I finally threw in the towel and knew I’d never try to publish it, I examined why, and made sure to avoid those issues in future writings. Not a waste or a stumble or an embarrassment at all, that time spent on Novel One. I’m still glad, though, I didn’t know when I started out it would be what this crazy world calls a “failure.”
- THE EDITING PROCESS IS A GREAT ANALOGY FOR A SUCCESSFUL LIFE. I never thought I’d draw life lessons from the writing process, but it turns out, successful editing is a lot like successful living. We all have, at this point, some raw material to work with, some “text” of life that we’ve written. To make life better, it’s important to examine what habits, toxic people, and negative thought patterns we need to cut. It’s necessary to examine what the focus of our life story is and keep that front and center; we should make it shine out evident in every “passage” we “write.” For me, that aspect of life is my faith. A successful life, like a well-written novel, has a goal, a destination, and like the journey of reading, the journey we make toward that goal should be adventurous, fun, and inspiring.
- MY CHARACTERS ARE LIKE REAL PEOPLE TO ME IN SOME WAYS. I’ve never cried over my characters, but I think about them all the time. I examine their strengths and weaknesses, and I could talk about them like I’d talk about my real friends and family. (I’d worry if I started talking to my characters, but that’s never happened.) Sometimes I wonder what they would do in a situation I’m in or what they would think of me as a person. I feel as though I respect them–well, the good guys–which might be a little weird, because I know they don’t exist, but hey: they’re “real” for me in a way that’s hard to describe. I should have expected this, considering how dear I hold a handful of characters I’ve read about, but for some reason I didn’t.
- I CAN BE FUNNY WHEN I DON’T HAVE TO BE SPONTANEOUS. ME? FUNNY? My friends could tell you I’m a pretty serious person. I like philosophical discussions, I follow the straight and narrow, and like a lot of writers, I’m an introvert, so I prefer not to be the center of attention. I love jokes and comedies, and I have a sense of humor, but I’m not witty in the same way as people who can come up the perfect one-liner in the middle of a conversation. But with my fiction, when a joke is needed to break some tension, I’ve learned I can be funny in my own way given sufficient time to craft the situation. I’m no Mark Twain, for SURE, but I’ve come up with a couple of cracks in my writing I’m particularly proud of, because I didn’t know I had it in me.