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Writer’s process…or how my mind controls its creativity, part III: The acceleration into madness.

(Sorry for the delay in getting this out–excuses don’t work anymore, so I won’t give any. Here I am just to spout off again, though, so enjoy.)

I create the story out of simple inspiration, and free write until it scares me that I won’t ever have a true plot point to follow. I decide to jot down an outline, loosely describing for myself the stages the story will progress through. So, what’s next?

I’ve spent a good deal of time to this point thinking of the purpose for the actions of characters, and envisioning them. I’ve become good friends with them: they yell at me often. Once I hit that prior stage of outlining, it’s impressed upon me that I need to finish this work, and so begins the manic writing phase.

With the guidance of the few notes I’ve jotted down, I write almost as freely as I did before, but pauses don’t exist. Deviations do not happen. It is almost like I am on a drug and I need to keep writing to keep the high moving. Unlike the initial writing phase, the “good” or “bad” writing actually matters to me as the story has become complex enough to need to make sense. I am usually up late at night, typing in darkness, listening to some inspirational music, reciting the words as they’re typed out on the screen. Sleep is secondary. My mind is consumed now with where my characters are going. Before, the visions inspired the text. Now, the text inspires the vision. The movie is in my head. The dialogue pops out, the voices are loud and clear, and I feel the adrenaline rush in this stage more than ever before.

I put so much energy into it. I want to talk about it, describe the feelings I am having, but people don’t get it. Part of me doesn’t blame them for this. Part of me does. The passion I pour into the story starts driving me. Nothing else matters. I see an end point that I need to reach, and I need to do it fast.

When I finally come to the conclusive point, I’m emotionally exhausted and sad. I do cry. I do reread the last few pages. I actually type: The End. I let the grief of letting go take over me, and I reluctantly close the document and stand up from the computer. My mind is still engaged in the world on the paper. I haven’t spent many hours away from it, and I miss it like one does an old home. My characters don’t speak to me now. They’re quiet. Not dead, just quiet. They’ve moved elsewhere for a moment, and the lonely feeling overcomes that manic high I was living on just moments before.

Because I’m me (and thus, never shut up and keep going and going and going…), despite the ending of one particular work, the story never ends. I love my characters so much that I know there are further stories to tell, and that I want to tell them. This is why I’ve rarely wrote a standalone work. It’s why I love movies that end up with sequels, and I tend to like spin-offs of tv shows. I enjoy the possibility of different stories, different perspectives, further interaction (even if different) with characters I’ve come to care about. And another part that makes me who I am is that my mind is apt to change, so often my motivation for keeping a story singular ends up with a trilogy simply because I shifted the storyline from one character to another.

Sometimes, I take a break between writing. Sometimes, eager to keep that high, I write for another week or two on a sequel (or prequel), and coast on being stuck in the world before it leaves me.  Often, though, I let it sit. I read. I let a bit of a mourning period go on, and then I start all over. Loving a new time period, engaging in the life of new characters, and spinning around some new ideas in this overactive brain of mine.

Heck, writing this may have confused you more than explaining my process, and perhaps it makes no sense. But, it follow the route I tend to take, and may explain the choices I’ve made in life and the paths I’ve taken as a writer.

 

 
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Posted by on 07/21/2014 in writing

 

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Gently, gently I go…a little poetic insight.

This is a poem I wrote 12 years ago. This was when I was extremely deep into writing poetry, and while not my best work, it is a great way to convey my mindset in this time of year. Titled: The Fourth.

The Fourth

© 2002, by Lauren L. Canfield, All Rights Reserved.
February 20, 2002.

Sunlight dances across the floor,
The wind blows my curtains
Gently toward my bed.
The sound of lawnmowers
Vrooming around yards
Reverberate in my ears
And the aroma of fresh cut grass floods my nostrils
As I turn over in my bed
And stare out the window.

I’ve never seen a sky so much that color.
So blue your eyes hurt.
The green, bright, vibrant.
The browns, yellows of the tall grasses.
The green, veined leaves of corn rustling
While in green, silk-laden beds,
The cobs lay maturing.
The purples, reds and pinks of flowers
Breaking the fifteen million shades of green
And the smell of lilac mingling
With the grass and the roses,
Peonies and lilies.
Dandelion puffs float by my window.

I stand up, stretch, dressed in shorts and shirt,
Rub my eyes,
Inhale.
Staggering, I make my way through
Short, dark hallways,
Into light-laden rooms.
At the stove, pasta is boiling.
On the table, red, yellow, and green
Peppers lay chopped
While onions and celery sit beside
Red tomatoes,
Greenish rimmed, milky-white cucumbers
And a jar of dressing wait.
I smile.

Open the door to it.
I do.
Inside, marinating
In a special sauce,
Is chicken.
I smell the vinegar
And close my eyes.
I can taste it now.

I return to throw on
Jean shorts, old tee
Some old sneakers, and maybe
A baseball cap.
Jumping down from the back door,
I hit a small path of pavement
Before reaching the soft, silky grass.
I almost wish to be barefoot,
But still see stalks of clover
And bees around.
Not safe for bare feet! I think
And walk to the shed.

Ah, the shed,
Home to a million diversions
For a country kid
Who excels at finding ways
To keep occupied.
Stepping up,
I locate, in the nearly empty shed,
A rake.
Doing my chores,
I finish the lawn in an hour.

Raking up cut grass
Can be dirty.
It stains.
It’s somewhat wet
From being mowed
Just after the dew evaporates.
It sticks.
I fling it to the cows,
Who, with the bulls, rush over.
My heart races;
I fear them breaking through.
They don’t.
Just munch on my gift.

The smell of cooking chicken hits me;
Just placed on the grill,
I have time.
Dragging my bike out of the shed,
I take off.
First, a mile down the road, turn around,
Over a small, wooden bridge next,
Then back.
Passing my house,
The sounds of my sister playing,
My dog barking,
My dad doing some odds and ends project,
Flood my mind,
But I soon forget to hear it.

Instead, I head to it.
Entering it, the tall maples,
Oaks, and numerous other trees
Create a soft, cool shade.
The sun breaks through in spots.
I make it to the first bridge.

A small man-made waterfall
From where they diverted the creek
Greets my eye.
As memory places me
Four years old,
Sitting on it as the water tumbled around
With my mom next to me.
I remember the freshwater crabs,
How they hid under rocks,
Then dared to snip at you when you neared.
I look across at the other side.

A well-known, well-worn path breaks through
To the creek side
I’m tempted to walk down
See if any crabs are left,
But, instead, I push on.
It becomes harder to bike,
As there are tiny hills here and there,
The second bridge comes into sight.
Much higher over the water,
No easy access down in,
It’s merely a marker.
Bored, I bike on,
Hit Bridge #3,
Two roads then diverge.

One, goes into a house, parked deep in
Hidden by a hillside.
The second leads nearly five more miles in.
The smell of dank woods hits me here.
I’m uncertain.
Should I go on, turn back?

I go on.

Road becomes narrower.
There are no guides on the side.
I might fall in, if spooked.
I keep going,
Forgetting time, responsibilities.
I love the cool arms of it.
It holds me, makes me feel at home,
I’m comfortable,
Confident,
Yet, frightened to wits end.

I turn around.
I think something’s up ahead.
I can never get to Monkey Circle.
I can never get beyond this point.
Staring over my shoulder,
Before I push off,
I shiver.
Something’s not right there.

I head home, all downhill.
The rush as I round curves,
Not bothering to brake,
My speed increasing.
I close my eyes on the straight-aways.
I open them just to turn,
And whiz past
The gorge I’ve climbed,
And slid down.
The water holes I swam in,
The waterfall where crabs nipped,
And by the tall trees shading
The entrance.

Bam!

Almost like a brick wall,
I hit the sunlight.
Easing on my brake, I coast by my yard,
Turn into my driveway.
As my mom carries the chicken inside.
She can see I’m happy,
Though I should be scolded for being
Away for so long.
She just smiles.

We eat.
The cleanup is done quickly.
The sun lowers in the sky, we set up the yard games,
Bring out the horseshoes and balls and gloves.

Our guest begin to arrive,
Bringing themselves
Maybe some chips or some soda.
Maybe a frozen treat.
Here comes Gramp,
Mysterious bag in hand.
I grin while the younger kids just stare
We take chairs to the front lawn.
The older people sit.
The kids run, chasing each other,
Water balloons flying all over.

I stare at the stars and inhale the night air.
Barefoot now, I lay back on the grass,
Still aromatic.
Closing my eyes, I move back in age,
Younger, chasing cousins and siblings with
Sparklers, dazzling the air with little bits of light.
Then, out came the big ones.
Parachute men, the wheel ones,
Some with big bangs,
Others silent as can be.
Gramp would bring them,
And we would jump for more.
When the woman across town would call,
The police came, but ignored it.
Nevertheless, we had hid them well.

Then, when they were done,
They’d pack up the cars,
We’d say goodbye.

I opened my eyes.
I heard a few talking above me,
I wiped a tear away,
Moved from the group,
Stared at the sky.

That fourth was different than
Others had been.

I can return to that town,
And I might smell fresh cut grass,
But it’s not our grass from our yard.

I might smell a barbecue,
But it is not our chicken.

The lilacs are purple and in bloom,
But they are not ours.

The road still leads to my wooden bridge,
But I have no bike to cross it.

The tall trees still stand,
The three bridges stand over the low creek,
The road still diverges.
They are mine.
They will always be mine.

And, no one will take my fourth away.

 

 
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Posted by on 07/18/2014 in family, weather, writing

 

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Writer’s process…or how my mind controls its creativity, part II: Writing for writing’s sake.

Last time, how I think through the inspiration led to me getting to write about something. Today, we talk about what comes next.

I don’t like to take an idea and control it from the start. For me, it stifles any hope of the characters, plot, and personalities to develop. Just because I can see what my female protagonist looks like, sounds like, or how she sits in the world I’m about to put on paper, doesn’t mean I know who she is. I don’t have characters that just appear to me fully revealed. They don’t trust easily. They want to be able to see the relationship to develop between us is worth it before showing me who they are. Outlining at an early stage makes me feel like I’ve put my characters in a certain personality construct, and they get loud when they get locked up. (Did I mention they’re a little like me? Stubborn as hell!)

So, I free write. I don’t know if they’re going to stay good. Maybe just maybe the evil bloke I saw at the beginning starts showing a softer, more vulnerable side. Maybe that character that everyone starts to like decides he feels like doing some really bad things. Heck, maybe the world explodes and they all end up in Central New York mooing at cows (see, just like me!). I want the story to tell me what’s important. I want to get to know my characters, and start to love or hate them the same way I want those reading to.

The best part of this, for me, is that I am constantly motivated to come back to the document I’m writing because the most curious part of me is waiting to see what comes next. The worst part is that when you go to further parts of the process, you sometimes are confronted with the reality that you might not always write some brilliant things.

So, I write. Chapter after chapter, thousands of words, deepening my understanding of current characters, watching new ones pop up. About a third of the way into what would end up the finished product, something changes, and I start changing with it. The mercurial Lauren, always true to her Gemini nature, decides it’s time to do it a little different.

Then, a new sort of fun begins.

This is when I start needing a direction to move in. My mind starts to realize that, like in most things, it can always run away with itself and this writing idea, and if I want any of it to make sense, I must make it make sense.

And so, now, I start to outline. It starts pretty simple. At this point, I can see the end game, even if it’s well off. I’ve started to see that this character loves to leap before looking, the other is too busy being a flirt to pay attention, and the personalities of all the others have developed to the point I start feeling they’re real people telling me their story. I know what sort they are; now, I just need to know where they’re going.

I plot out the plot as loosely as possible to allow for creativity to still flourish. I get nervous if I don’t know the story has a point. I also like that these ideas developed in the outlining lead on to bigger and better plot ideas. More often than not, the outline leads to future book ideas, and then I start overwhelming myself with the history involved.

During this outlining period, I’m still writing. However, now I feel like I’ve an actual purpose with it. I’m more determined than ever to have a productive output, and I feel rather manic. The ideas start pouring in because I know the structure they’ll be contained in is there. I also know that, as the architect, I’m still able to manipulate as the characters and stories need.

I’m probably my happiest, most productive, and best in this stage. I’m always that mercurial sort mentioned above. I do love being in control…and losing it. It’s so very hard to decide what I think on so many things because of this, the least of which is writing.

But, to where do I go after the outline?

 
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Posted by on 12/13/2013 in blogging, writing

 

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Realizing all the while, you’ve been doing it wrong.

Once upon a time, I wrote a fantasy novel. I haven’t spent too much time on my specific works in this blog, mostly because I had intended on having another blog serve to deal with my “I’M A WRITER, DAMNIT!” thoughts. However, I’ve been in a weird sort of mood lately, and I really just want to talk about stories.

I didn’t start out writing fantasy when I decided writing was the craft for me. In fact, I was just a little obsessed with a time period of history/country called Ancient Egypt and writing a story set there. I was so obsessed that some of my early internet usernames were based upon characters in that novel series. I started that series when I was 17, finished the first book when I was 21, and started up the prequel (because writing out of order is just awesome, let me tell you). Then, the story just crashed and burned.

It wasn’t because the plot couldn’t sustain itself. It could, and I still hope that it can. However, the time of life I was entering, I found myself consumed with other things that distracted me further from the closeness I had experienced with the characters.

Two years later, after writing hundreds of poems, reading a dear friend’s own fantasy work, and trying to work through some visions of plot that danced in my head, I decided to start working on a fantasy novel. It started a lot smaller in scope, and now it sits as a waiting trilogy, but I really believed in the storyline and I admit, it was a lot of fun to write.

That’s the background. Now, here’s what I’m trying to get at.

A few posts ago, I wrote about going through some old writing, finding that 23 year old me, and reliving the past relationships that have since faded with time. I have struggled for years to get myself back into a writing sort of mood, and that Monday was a trigger moment. The following weekend, I actually worked on my writing. I was happy, but a little sad, too.

Since I left high school, writing wasn’t just about me getting whatever thoughts in my head out on paper, but rather a sort of social interaction I held with classmates, friends, other writers, and often, I would just spend an entire night talking about plot points, worries, and directions I wanted to take. It wasn’t selfish. I listened just as much as I talked. I spent countless hours with other creative people, letting the pulse of their own exploration inspire and motivate me to be bigger, better, and stronger as an artist.

I really enjoyed myself, reading the words I wrote about a decade ago, edited seven years ago, and wrote in a very changeable winter. But, part of what I missed was knowing I couldn’t really share that with anyone. I couldn’t do anything but pace the rooms of my house, whispering my thoughts on working through the bad areas of writing. It was a lonely process. I really didn’t like it.

This isn’t a foreign feeling. I’ve been struggling with it for the past seven years. Every time I went to write, that beautiful urge faded as I felt so alone with it. I wasn’t comfortable with the change, so I’d give up.

Yeah, self-inflicted writer’s block.

It doesn’t have to be that way. I don’t want to be that way. I’m sick of letting it be that way.

Time for a change.

 
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Posted by on 11/12/2013 in blogging, writing

 

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A spring and summer creating memories…

A few days ago, I updated my Facebook status describing how I found some old binders, notebooks, and folders with some writing and thoughts I had when I was finishing college, and learning how to move towards a goal of being a responsible adult. Now, over a decade later, I still can’t say I have figured out the adult thing, but I can say I’ve made progress.

I can admit I’m a bit of a pack rat. In some cases, I keep things because of sentimental value; maybe they remind me of an event, or maybe they just are things I believe I will eventually use. I tend to remember things vividly from years ago, and occasionally get a little too nostalgic due to that. So, if I have things that relate to a vivid memory, or signify a relationship of the past, I tend to keep it.

The other night, I came home from work and walked over to my overstuffed bookshelf. I thought I might have stashed some extra office/school supplies there that I could have taken to work to use for something. Instead, I started pulling out these binders, folders, and a notebook with a “title” written up on it in big sharpie handwriting. A part of me stared at disbelief as I had forgotten that I had stuffed these items away, intending to keep them for posterity.

I never found the supplies I thought I had. Instead, I found the 22/23 year old me, full of opinions, an awakening spirituality, and completely in love with writing. I found the imagination that I sometimes think has escaped from me as I’ve grown older, more mature, responsible. The kid part of me I strove to hold on to those years went down for a nap so long ago, and I wonder if she will ever wake up.

One of the notebooks was a journal a friend and I had kept my last summer at the job I had right out of college before the place went out of business. In the journal, my friend and I wrote about friendships (with coworkers and people we knew outside our little group), our philosophies and beliefs, poetry and short stories. Inside, I also used the notebook to detail out growing relationships I was making with people that, at the time, were consuming my world. In 2002, fresh out of college, optimistic that the world was at my feet, and boy, did I dream and want things bigger and grander than anything I ever did and got. Inside this one subject notebook, I poured out some of the biggest parts of who I was and what I wanted. Ironically, I also made promises and declarations in this notebook I later broke to myself. Ah, the mercurial me.

One of the best and worst parts of reading these materials this week was not the memory trip it conjured, but the realization that back then, so very few people knew me, or, for that matter, saw me. I have always been a bit of the quiet girl, keeping my feelings and emotions close. I can guarantee that some of the people closest to me in proximity knew nothing of what things I wrote, or believed, or hell, felt. The crushes, the falling in love, the intense spirituality building within me, centering me and giving me the confidence to believe, for once, I was okay. The knowledge that writing wasn’t just some hobby I liked to do on cold weather mornings, but an immense part of who I was as a person. And, the fact that writing brought to me so many connections to people so far away that matched my personality in ways I still can’t begin to explain to people. So many secrets back then. So much need for them.

Probably the best part of the trip down memory lane was the fact that I got to see my description of the beginning of one of the longest and fulfilling relationships of my adult life. Sure, living through that, I was aware of what I felt at the time, and what I personally saw, but writing it down for an audience outside of myself, I saw a bit of what I had forgotten about it. It was genuine, unintended, and fun. As it went, sometimes it hurt more than I could ever know things could hurt. But, it started as fun.

I need to get that back. That sort of fun. Ah, well…we shall see.

 
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Posted by on 11/08/2013 in blogging, writing

 

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