The Biggest Myth Non-Writers Believe About Writers

Before I started writing I thought writers were mysterious beings that heard a song that the rest of the world could not hear. These creatures, I thought, disappear for six months only to reappear with a book that was perfect, required no editing, and had the power to enrapture a generation.

The reality? It doesn’t work that way.

typewriter

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction and I am in the middle of Creativity Inc., by Ed Catmul with Amy Wallace. It’s about leadership more than anything else but in it Mr. Catmul details some of the creative processes that Pixar Animation and Disney Animation implement to create and develop their stories.

Up is one of my favorite Pixar movies and I was shocked to discover that it’s first draft looked nothing like the finished product. Mr. Catmul explains that the bird and the title Up are the only two things that survived the first iteration of the story. The first draft was about two boys that lived in a castle in the sky.

Even Pixar’s first drafts are bad.

The process of writing a book is a lot like this. Once a first draft is done, there is a mountain of refining that takes place. The idea is usually hidden in the drivel but only through careful counsel and thoughtful consideration on the writers’ behalf can the non-fiction book be rounded into form or the fiction story be shaped into a coherent, compelling tale.

Perhaps the biggest mystery is not how writers do it but how they persevere when others may not be able to see the vision of their story.

I don’t know what possessed me to start writing. Maybe it was my Grandma Evenhouse who always had books around and stories to tell. It could have been the allure of Lowry’s Book and More in my hometown or maybe it was the college professor that told me I could be a writer, out of the blue, or the encouraging email or comment about a recent blog post, but I find myself among writers now and even call myself one.

If you are a writer and your ideas don’t come out right or you are stuck, don’t worry. Great stories take time to shape. You have to try to poke holes in them, let it fall on the page without editing, and then build it back up or mold it into something new.

If you’ve ever thought of writing, and still maintain that desire, I challenge you to start now, with the advanced knowledge that the road will be hard and perseverance is your only guide through.

On Waiting For The Perfect Words

My first book was horrible. No, worse than that. It wasn’t even a book. It was a bunch of words cobbled together and then tossed in a blender. I thought it was interesting and well written at the time (if I showed it to anyone of you reading this I’m sorry. I’m sure it was painful). I remember a few sentences I wrote, “The horse beside him trudged slowly onward beside him.” And also, “after walking through the forest for an hour, they can to a large forest.”

Forest Path
Look! Another forest!

Ouch.

First drafts are terrible. I thought what I wrote was good at the time (roughly 10 years ago). Really good. I think I even had delusional thoughts of being a professional someday.

It did not take long for me to come back to earth. I reread it after setting it aside for a few months and realized how poor the writing was. I did not roll up into a ball and cry, however, I was proud. Proud, you ask? I was proud because it was done. I’d written a book! And every new draft I’ve written since has been better. Better planning and grammar. Better mechanics and literary tools to create something more beautiful. It is more than that though. Each word put on the page is a march along the path to publication. At times this path might lead me further away from my goal, but I am on a road. Occasionally, I find a short cut.

I write this post to those who fear of doing it wrong. It may be something you’ve heard a thousand times here and possibly with a writer friend or two but excellent planning without any actual writing is useless. It’s like planning and saving for a trip but when the time comes, you report to work.

As a writer, my goal is to tell a story. I want to finish one and do the best I can, but writers must learn by reading a lot and writing every day. Don’t believe me? Head over to Kristen Lamb’s Blog, she’s a professional. Yesterday’s post was about balancing writing and life. It is worth your time.

I hope you find courage and tenacity today my friends. Courage to move forward into the unknown of another page and tenacity to get up and do it again tomorrow.

Cheers,
Bob