I recently drove from St. Paul, MN to Crested Butte, CO (that's more than 17 hours of driving, on my own). To fill the time, I listened to interviews with social psychologist Ellen Langer (as I mentioned before, she studies the way our words and ideas shape our experiences and her work has been blowing my mind wide open). I started thinking--what words could I use to describe my personal writing process without making it feel like work? It didn't take long to land on a word I use in my workshops:
Which is to say that a first draft (or third, fourth, fifth or sixteenth) is about trying things out and seeing what works. Undertaken from the perspective of exploration, writing becomes a form of play--infinitely more fun than looking at it as trial and error (which implies mistakes).
I've always seen this approach as a way to ease the pressure. Instead of worrying about writing something good, you can simply begin. But somewhere around Buena Vista, CO I saw a whole new reason:
YOU CAN'T DISCOVER NEW THINGS BY STAYING IN THE SAME PLACE.
You can take this a few of different ways: moving through the story to discover new parts; considering new ideas to spur personal growth; or even going places in the physical world.
Whichever way you go about it, you're changing your vantage point. Giving yourself an opportunity to see something new.
I experienced this on my trip to Minnesota. My parents and I rented a cabin on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (where my novel takes place). It had been years since I'd visited the area, and I was struck by two things: the density of the woods, and the indirect way Minnesotans speak.
I instantly saw that some parts of my book simply would not work. I also saw that changing them would fix some other, unresolved issues. I would not have seen this from my home in Colorado.
It's tempting to wish for a complete outline, or even a download of your entire book or essay from whatever higher power or creative source you believe in (I have heard of that happening). But why wait? Why not give yourself an advantage?
The ideas, the clarity, the discoveries that we seek happen when we explore, move, and look for new points of view.
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