Earlier this week, my friend Christine tweeted:
Creative writing is initially hard when all you know is journalism and research papers. Thoughts, @ryssiebee?
I absolutely agree! Creative writing demands a different frame of mind than article writing, research paper drafting, and blogging do. But that doesn’t mean someone who does one can’t do the other!
The first difference between creative writing and more journalistic/research-based writing is that, while doing the latter, you usually know where they want to end. You almost always have a goal in mind.
Of course, the point of writing a newspaper article or research paper is to uncover something new or to synthesize information in a unique way, but you usually has an agenda before he/she starts writing.
While you may discover something new along the way, you are, for the most part, driving a car to a specific destination. You are either vaguely familiar with the route, or you have a GPS with you.
When I’m writing a story or poem, I almost never know where I want to end. In fact, if I know the end before I start to write, I can guarantee that whatever I write will be total crap because it lacks imagination and possibility.
To extend the car metaphor with creative writing, you decide to get in your car (the car of your dreams), you turn the ignition, and you sit there until you’re ready to go. You have no destination, and you drive until you run out of gas. Creative writing is a joy ride.
Breaking a bout of creative writer’s block is not about knowing WHAT you want to write. It’s about knowing where you want to start. You have to start somewhere, and the place you start probably won’t be the beginning, at least not when you get to the end (is that too confusing?).
The place where you start is just a place to start, and then you work out from that point. The process is not necessarily linear; you can go in circles, you can overwrite. Creative writing is a discovery process in more ways than one.
The mental preparation required for creative writing is much different from that when writing a journalistic piece or research paper. With an article or research paper, the collecting of sources is a meditative process. The writers forms the paper in his/her head while gathering sources and then strings them together to create a story.
For creative writing, I have to be in a very specific frame of mind. Nothing else can be bothering me. It’s very much like trying to go to sleep. If I have a lot of things on my mind, I will not be able to start writing, the same way I will not be able to sleep. I usually find myself writing new fiction on the weekends or when I’m on vacation because my mind is clear.
After a long day at work, it’s almost impossible for me to switch from work brain to creative brain.
Which is why I blog. Blogging is as close to my work mindset as I can get, and doing it means I’m still writing everyday, which is so important to me.
My creative writing blog is kind of an illusion. Yes, I’m offering new short story excerpts every day, but what most readers don’t know is that I started writing my collection in the summer of 2007. The stories that I casually post every day are the result of many hours of staring at blank screens, writing, rewriting, deleting, changing narrators, living and breathing my characters, rearranging, copying, pasting, hating, and loving.
I’m at the best part, the part where all I have to do is perfect the prose. This part of the creative writing process is more akin to blogging because I’m not actually creating anything earth-shatteringly new.
To be honest, I haven’t written a new story or poem in months. My mind is not in the right place.
That meditative state that’s perfect for creative writing comes and goes. It’s not even worthwhile trying to pursue it until you feel you are so full of thoughts and emotions that, if you don’t write them, you are going to explode.
(Photo by mattimattila)