In the Event of Distraction

In the event of distraction, we prescribe the following: First, barricade yourself in a quiet room. Then, turn off all music, hide your phone, put a pen in your hand and begin writing and pray something good comes out of that brain of yours.

Admittedly, this has been a week of distraction. My life and the life my mind invented has taken up a lot of attention. I work two jobs; both in books, both I love, and both physically and emotionally taxing. And I couldn’t help but let this and a whole bunch of life things suck up 90% of my energy. Writing included.

So what have I done this week? I’ve stared at blank docs and counted the number of times my cursor line blinks on the screen. Mid-week I was able to eke out some words, butcher some dialogue, and hate it passionately. But it was something so it’s a victory. Other times, I imagined what happened next and listened to music to make it more real. I pulled my computer closer, opened Word and then couldn’t summon the energy to act on inspiration. Like they say, the holy trinity of time, energy, and inspiration in art usually step in as a twosome.

Earlier this year, I promised myself that I wouldn’t beat myself up on weeks like these. I highlight the good. This week’s good is finishing one chapter and carving a small path into the other. No matter how I got there or how bad I think it is at the moment, I’ve done something and that’s enough.

Add, Delete, Rearrange & Re-imagine

Let’s begin with a sentence.

The first sentence gives you a direction. It may not always be the first sentence. Revision could take it from its pedestal, maybe even erase its existence entirely with a few careless keystrokes. Add, delete, rearrange and re-imagine.

Right now, the first sentence tells me that I needed to start somewhere and made itself the star. It made me choose between first and second person with the tumble of thoughts afterward making the decision for me. But where does this go now? How do I structure my meandering? How do I give logic to something that was one in the stream of my consciousness?

So let’s begin the process anew: add, delete, rearrange, and re-imagine.

 

This week, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the structure of narratives. The process of digging through trash to unearth gold and working in enough spit and polish to make it shine. The more I write, the more I think. The more I think, the more I see myself as a butcher in a dark room readying my knife for the first hacking.

Structure, in my head, is the method by which you connect the plot by a cohesive string. That line might run through every way in loops and dips and over the edge in zigzag patterns but when you step back to connect the dots, you should see the whole picture. As I near the end of my first drafting, I keep asking myself where’s the string. I’ve written a lot of words, made a lot of snap decisions, and used the line of my pen as my guide as I navigate through a world that I’m building up and tearing apart. I’m trying to make sense of the surreal horror of thought before me so that I can carve it into something others will understand. Maybe even enjoy.

As I’ve often heard, the first draft is you telling yourself the story; giving the initial structure to the jumble of words and images in your head. Revision bakes in the themes and allows you to experiment with storytelling, or at least allows you to imagine such things: First or third? This setting or that setting? Beginning here or beginning there? This action or that action? And as the writer, what is my role? As a narrator, am I the same person?

So much to think about and so much more still. And I’m still at stage one.