Monday, July 09, 2007

Let's Talk About Writing


Right now, my daughter is running around the house. It's 10:58 p.m. Yes, I should be in bed. But these days, I don't get to bed too early. There's simply too much to do. Housework. Writing. Visiting hubby in the hospital (yes, he's still there).

My daughter has an incredibly vivid imagination. She has donned her Batman mask (just like in Batman Begins) and has a pair of my red fuzzy slipper socks pulled up all the way past her elbows. For her tail, she has attached a jump rope. She believes it to be the longest tail in the world.

Tonight, she is a dog. At the hospital, the doctor has started asking her what animal she is today. Sometimes it's a fox. Or a wolf. Or a saber tooth tiger.

What does all this have to do with writing?

Imagination.

As writers, we all need it. If we don't have it, our stories are flat, dull, and just plain boring.

But I believe that as adults, we don't let our imagination take flight like we did as kids. Do you remember what you used to play when you were little? I was everything from a paleontologist to a housewife to a motorcycle rider (I even had some cool sunglasses). I was rarely, if ever, bored. When I wasn't indulging my mind in a book, I was strengthening my creativity through play.

Exactly as my daughter is doing.

Sometimes I have struggled to put words on the page. My characters mull around and utter inane words. They do boring stuff. They don't jump in mud puddles and get their feet wet. They don't suddenly decide to stop paying the bills, skip town, and head to Jamaica just for the heck of it.

When I have trouble getting my characters to act, getting the words to flow, getting the story to move forward, it's largely because my "adult" is writing and not my "child." Now don't get me wrong - we need both to create. But sometimes, the adult gets a little heavy handed and thinks, "That's not realistic at all. That's just stupid and immature."

But sometimes, that's exactly what our writing needs. We need a burst of the ridiculous, a spontaneous lurch into the unknown. We need to let our inner child come out and play once in awhile instead of being all stuffy and adult-like. In short, we need to excercise our imagination.

When's the last time you played with your writing, whether it be the language or your characters' motivations?

I suppose this use of imagination ties into the joy of writing. When we write and we're happy, I believe it is because we are allowing our imagination to roam a bit, to go outside the cubicle and into the playground. We experience a child-like delight in our story, our article, our novel because we're having fun.

Maybe this doesn't happen on every piece you write. Maybe you're writing something really serious and the thought of letting your inner child come out and play is a ridiculous notion. But wait. Is it really? Maybe you could capture a different turn of phrase if you allowed your imagination to do its job, or take the article in an entirely different direction and make it better by playing with the words.

The next time you sit down to write, tell that pesky, mature, no-nonsense adult attitude to go sit in the waiting room for awhile. You and your imagination have a date on the playground.

5 comments:

  1. This is an awesome post, Melissa! I think that childlike freedom is what is needed for the first draft, especially - to just have fun with it. I think that childlike creativity can be applied to serious work as well - in the words and structures we choose.

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  2. What a marvelous post, Melissa! It's just what I need to remember. I sometimes struggle with codependency, wanting to "control" things and be a good adult -- just the opposite of letting go to create.

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  3. Just what I needed to hear! I have been tempted to cut all silliness from my novel lately. But that's what makes it mine. Thank you!

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  4. Too funny, I was just thinking about this yesterday. I kept thinking my writing was too outlandish. Then I remembered I was going to be buying a book next week about a boy wizard who attends a school for wizadry. Apparently J.K. Rowling has conquered that particular demon.

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  5. Because I'm writing primarily drama, that silly kid in me rarely comes through in my work.

    But I agree with the idea of leeting my imagination have its way. Great post. :)

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