Monday, 7 May 2012

Moving from "how" to "what"

It's amazing how setting course can make you relax.

Last week I was writing about the tension and frustration of fixating on near-term goals at the expense of mid- or long-term goals.  In the course of that post I referred to my long-term goal of writing an as-yet undefined manuscript of some kind.  However realistic it may be, almost everyone harbours an ambition to write a novel, or to publish something of substance.  In my case I've always felt it to be a little more certain than not, but I've been deterred by two major concerns:

  • my writing won't be good enough; and
  • my ideas will be hopelessly derivative.

Writing this blog is part of my response to the first point.  Honing my skills and putting my writing in front of an audience seems to me to be a good way to ensure my writing's up to snuff.

On the second point, I've come to realise that critics (and not just the paid ones) will always say that something is like something else before finding the points of difference and passing judgement.  Original stories are pretty rare, but original treatments of familiar ones can work too.  I satisfied myself that I could strive to produce an original twist on a scenario that many may find familiar and, if it evolved into something else, so much the better.

Getting past point two was part of my goal-setting last week and, having gone through that process, I had some confidence that I was on my way somewhere tangible.  It wasn't any clearer where that place was, but my view now took in the horizon, not just the spot where my next foot would fall.  Thinking about the "how" made the "what" a second-order concern, and released the tension.

Well, it was like some cunning gremlin inside my head flicked the switch to "what".  Suddenly everything around me was a potential source of inspiration.  Could that thing that person just said in the line in front of me be useful?  It sounded interesting, better jot it down in case I need it later.  What about that headline in the paper?  Better take a note, out of context it's hilarious.

Gradually, over about 36 hours, an idea coalesced in my head.  A scenario, a broad narrative.  I got it down in writing, played with it a bit, and then I was ready to bounce it off Mrs G.  She had a suggestion to improve the concept, quite rightly observing that my background and experience may not be able to believably sustain a narrative constructed around my chosen protagonist, but if we shifted focus to a supporting character I'd also described, that could work.  (Again, the value of having the confidence to share with an audience came into play!)

I was away again, jotting down snatches of this and glimpses of that, and every time I had an important idea that defined some aspect of the whole, well, that needed to be gotten down before it got lost.

In the middle of all this we journeyed north to Canberra for a much-anticipated costumed mystery party.  To my delight, it was as if the tap letting the creative juices flow was turned down.  Not off, but low enough that the world wasn't full of things I needed to take note of.  My mind let me drive, socialise and participate without bothering me about that thing that had burst into life and was hovering, just out of thought, waiting for my return.  I could look in on it from time to time, making sure it was still there and not withering, and then leave again, knowing neither of us needed to bother the other.

This is what I mean about being able to relax.  Once the project was sketched out I didn't need to worry about it all the time.  I am assured that it will be right where I left it, no matter how long it is before I get back to it.

What I need now, though, is a good little notebook.  The margins of my original A4 print-out of the concept are filled with jottings, and I need to get more organised.

Suggestions for organising and filing ideas gratefully accepted!


  1. Replies
    1. ooh!


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