We pick up from last week with our year-end attempt to help GITS readers set and achieve their writing goals for 2014. To revisit the process of self-reflection from last week, here are the links:
This week we shift the focus to a more pragmatic part of the discussion, considering a variety of tips about how to manage time and projects more efficiently. Here is what we have thus far:
Today: Trust The Process
“Trust the process.”
This is probably my favorite writing mantra. It’s both practical and spiritual, which pretty sums up my experience of the act of writing.
There is prep-writing (brainstorming, research, generating plot elements, developing characters, story structure, scene breakdowns, outline), then there is page-writing (type FADE IN and continue writing until you type FADE OUT). Those two components represent the practical part of the process, but out of that ‘grunt work,’ a more spiritual aspect emerges: suddenly, you hear a character say something to you, or a character may refuse to act the way you planned, or a scene sequence you worked out in advance implodes once you start writing it, or a whole other way of approaching a subplot may leap to mind.
Whatever happens at every step of the way, a writer must learn to trust the process.
For some writers and some stories, the process can be neat and straightforward. For others, the process can be confounding and circuitous.
Every writer is different. Every story is different. Every process is different.
The writer must learn to accept that and trust that they are where they are for some reason.
M. Night Shyamalan supposedly wrote five drafts of The Sixth Sense until he had this startling realization: the Protagonist, Malcom Crowe (Bruce Willis), was dead.
J.R.R. Tolkien finished the first chapter of what would become “The Lord of the Rings” in February, 1938, then didn’t turn in the final manuscript until 1950. On two occasions, after writing hundreds of pages, Tolkien went back to page one and started all over. What if Tolkien had not trusted his creative process? We might never have known one of the world’s most remarkable pieces of literature.
“Trust the process.”
I hit upon that phrase when I was teaching one of my online screenwriting courses in response to a student who was seemingly stuck in their story. A year or so later, I stumbled onto this book, “Trust the Process: An Artist’s Guide to Letting Go”. It’s an excellent read, one I highly recommend, and it raises an interesting point about trust, that second part “letting go.”
Letting go of what?
Often what happens when we get ‘stuck’ in our writing, it’s not so much about the story, it’s about what we bring to the writing process — expectations, plans, fears, doubts. Any time we step out of the story, our active engagement in the writing process, we run the risk of losing ourselves in the day-to-day world as well as our hopes and dreams. For example, we may get caught up in seeing the story as a bridge from our life today to our imagined life in Hollywood as a working screenwriter. To carry that weight of ‘responsibility’ into a writing session, that attachment, can easily encumber our actual writing — and soon we’re stuck, not because of the story, but what we are bringing to the writing.
Trust the process / let go — all very Zen, yes? I guess. It also suggests that we look at the Writer in relation to Story not as an “I – It” relationship, but an “I – You” dynamic, something we explored here.
Trust the process.
Try tacking that mantra up onto the wall where you write.
And then believe it.
I hope you’ve enjoyed and benefited this 10-part series.
Good luck with your writing goals in 2014!