I was going to do another post about characterization and all those things we writers like to go on about, but I did homework instead. And through a strange chain of events, I got another idea for this post.
Event 1: I realized my English professor had graded the prospectus I wrote for my research paper.
Event 2: It was an awesome grade, with some really encouraging feedback.
Event 3: I was flooded with joy, sunshine, and flowers, and dashed down the hall to the water fountain for the sheer pleasure of sprinting 30 feet (I’m sure this is normal college behavior).
Event 4: The emotional release reminded me of last time I worked on something fictional.
Event 5: I decided to write this blog post to explain the correlation between Event 3 and Event 4.
For the last year, I’ve been busy. Really busy. College busy. Because I’m in college. And on the rare occasions I got to work on my fiction, I felt stilted and uninspired. Yes, I had a good NaNo season, but that story fizzled out during editing. (Not saying I won’t come back to it. Fingers crossed.) For a while I focused so much on plot, characterization, and all that good stuff, that I fell into the bottomless pit of perfectionistic procrastination, waving my arms in helpless terror reminiscent of the demise of Darth Maul.
Needless to say, I stopped writing for a bit and focused on my research paper. It’s looking to be a ten page paper on the motivations of Brutus from Julius Caesar, and I was sifting through pages and pages of scholarly journals. Honestly, Plutarch and Shakespeare are easier than some of those academic papers. It ate up all my time, and I nearly blew a blood vessel trying to get enough read and annotated before the prospectus deadline. (If you’re not an English major, please don’t run away. We’re not always this scary.)
One night I had it. I knew I ought to read some more articles and do another annotation — actually, I needed to write two annotations to stay on track — but I couldn’t. I’d had it. I needed to get away.
Drowning in rules and regulations, I shut off my project and turned back to fiction.
Uh…Faith. Didn’t you just say your fiction was full of rules and regulations?
So glad you asked. I didn’t work on that project. Instead of that, I worked on a high fantasy idea I’d recently thought of.
Um…isn’t creating a new project just going to aggravate the problem?
SHH! I’m an ENFP! Brainstorming and ideas are kinda my thing. And besides, I wasn’t focusing on rules and regulations. I was simply making up ideas I liked. Designing a culture. Coming up with a character. Possibly planning death and despair for millions of fictional minds. (That part may or may not have been influenced by Julius Caesar…just saying.)
I needed to get away, and that’s what I did. For an hour or so, I played in my mind, doing what I wanted, throwing rules and regulations to the wind.
When I think back on my writing life, the times I’ve written best were when I worried least about my project. As a kid, that came naturally. Kids don’t worry about these sorts of things. But as I’ve grown up, I’ve needed real-world stress to bring me to that point of not caring about anything except the world inside my mind. No three-act structure. No elaborate character arcs. Just me and my imagination.
Rules and structure are fine — essential, really — but there comes a time when it’s best to let it go. (Please don’t start singing.) Just write. Get away from the world for a while. Do what you want, how you want. The real world isn’t that accommodating, but your mental playhouse can be.
Then, of course, you can edit it, and I’ll beta it. If you want. Just saying. Contact info’s up there.* (Coughs nervously.)
Thanks for reading, guys. Stay crazy.
*Actually I’m really busy right now, but I’m assuming it’ll take you at least a year to write a novel based on my excellent advice, so…planning ahead, right??