Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Draft like a butterfly, edit like a bee

A little post about writing today. Or about not writing, to be more exact. With a little bit of English class thrown in as a bonus!

First the English class. Metaphor, children, is a wonderful thing. It helps us to understand complex, often abstract, things by transforming them in our thinking into more easily-graspable things. And, because we can transform difficult concepts into simpler ones, we can talk and write about them as if they were those simpler things. Take emotions, for example: the most complex, diaphanous fings in the world, yet we can say “I’m feeling up,” or “I’m feeling down,” and what could be easier to understand than up and down? Exactly.

Now the bit about (not) writing. The thing is, I’ve been feeling for a long time that I haven’t written, and don’t write, as much material as I might like to. I know I post on my blog, and I know I pop up here and there with little guest scribbles, and I know I have a few short stories to my name, but I could do more, and I want to do more. Circumstances are part of it, of course: I’m only human and I do need to sleep some of the time, and I have a day job that takes up most of the day (hence the name, I guess), and I have a partner and a Doggie to feed and water and look after, and I have a social life, and daily chores like cooking and cleaning to do...

...even so, I do get some time for writing, and I always feel like I could make better use of it; I feel like I could, if I wanted to, be more of a writeaholic like some of my peers and less of a… whatever it is I am. (BH calls me a snurgle).

I like to think I have a pretty creative mind, and that I can write fairly well. Sorted then, right? Yeah... kinda. The trouble is, I find it hard to commit to the process of writing. No, that’s not quite right... it’s more that it’s not always easy to transfer the ideas that buzz round in my head to the page. No... it’s more that... that I’m afraid that things won’t turn out right, and I’m afraid to fail so I don’t try as readily as I could. The will is there, but it’s like there’s something holding me back... hm. It’s hard to convey precisely.

This is where the metaphor bit comes in again :) There’s an expression from the world of boxing, of all things, that really captures the essence of my problem and offers a solution. (Feel free to picture your humble scribe-ette as a not-very-intimidating featherweight at this point, pigtails bouncing as she hops from foot to foot, giant red gloves hanging heavily from the ends of her skinny arms). The expression is “let your hands go.” It means stop holding back, stop holding yourself back, stop being afraid of getting hurt, stop waiting for whatever it is that’s nagging at the back of your mind, making you seize up and keeping your hands pinned to your chest. Just GO for it! Start swingin!

I’m going to let my hands go. Metaphorically.


  1. Penelope,

    I once attended a conference with Scott Adams as a speaker. He is the creator of the comic strip Dilbert. Scott was told that he would never make it as a cartoonist. He persisted and is famous.

    Do not give up. You are a terrific writer and very creative. If you doubt yourself, read the first chapter of 50 Shades.

    I loved both of your books!!!!


  2. lol, "If you doubt yourself, read the first chapter of 50 Shades." :D

    Thanks, Joey - I really appreciate your kind compliments. 'Terrific', aw! And the example of Scott Adams is one to keep in mind.

    And don't worry, I'll never give up. I'm very trying ;)

  3. I look forward to seeing what an unfettered Penny can do.

  4. Thanks, Aunty :)

    I promise it won't involve interpretive dance. Or not much, anyway.

  5. Very familiar feelings, for myself and others I know. There is pure joy in creation, but somehow we deprive ourselves. The process becomes work, especially to organize and get started. The idea of failure takes us away from being in the moment. The advantage to a deadline is that there's no time to be intimidated, yet being able to set your own agenda would seem to be ideal. I think the happiest artists are the ones who are addicted to the process. They need no compensation.

    You've got the brains and talent, so knock 'em out. :)


  6. Aw, thanks TFD. You're the best.

    I love your thoughts on the creative process; you really capture what it can feel like sometimes. I guess those kinds of feelings are what prompted this post, really - I want to shake it all out and get loose and just get writing without worrying about it. And I figured I should share that impulse with my dear readers :)

    I think I'll light a scented candle and do some nekkid interpretive dancin tonight and see what ideas come.

  7. I certainly have far more stuff unfinished than finished - and I still wish I'd written down more, more often. And sometimes I find relaxation in "drafting" and sometimes in editting (at least as important). One thing I had to do was get away from measuring progress in publishable words...

    something that helped me was to see artists who would whip out a piece - then throw it out and do another, similar piece from scratch - and do it a dozen times. My God, the time they "wasted!" I had always thought a piece should be worked and reworked until it was good for something, at least... but at some point I concluded I was wrong (though I admit that the very infrequent "inspired" pieces are espcially rewarding...)

    so I have no doubt that the more you get onto the page, the more masterpieces you'll end up with...

  8. That is a great piece of advice - thanks, John! The 'artistic' process you describe is, I figure, another way of articulating the impulse I mentioned in my post: the felt need to loosen up and not be so worried about how something might turn out before I even start it. Easier said than done, but knowing that you want something is the first step to getting it!

    It's nice to have so many coaches :)