If there’s one thing to learn from being around creative types, it’s that there is no one way to achieve an end. There is no real “right” process to making something happen. It just is what it is. Sometimes, it works for you. Sometimes, you have to play with it as you change and grow. Sometimes, it’s an utter crapshoot and you hate every moment of it, even if the end result is beauty. But, there is never just one way to do it.
One of my friends posted about his process in a blog entry, and I read it, understanding every step of it, and responded in the comments with a brief description of my own. But, even though I thought I was reflecting on my own attempts to create something from a blank page, I realized I barely scraped the surface of how I work.
As a person who has always been driven by her imagination, I end up with a lot of ideas. I’m never short of them. I always tell people that my brain never shuts up. It has an opinion: right, wrong, even hardly thought out. It has a vivid show to give: I’m pretty sure I think in color all the time. It’s just always on. I often lack sleep, especially if I have decided that, five minutes before hitting the pillow, this awesome movie needs to play, all inside a head that really, really needs some shut-eye.
I used to call these ideas visions, mostly because I felt they were coming from some external source. I even wrote a poem about how these ideas hit, and they may not make sense. I might be out at a bar with friends, and this amazing scene just plays inside, and I have to fight the urge to just expound upon it while attempting to be social. I might be sitting by a lake or ocean, watching waves lap the shore, and see a female detective sitting in an office, interrupted by her male assistant who informs her some new client is outside, waiting to hire her for the next big case.
Some writers like to carry a little notebook around to jot down these ideas so they can work through them after the first insight to story greatness shows up. I was blessed with a pretty good memory, and I tend to hold on to my ideas as if they were my greatest treasure. I don’t carry a notebook. I just carry the idea with me until I can play with it.
So, let’s get to that play. Some writers like to outline and plan everything. Some free write, planning to edit and smooth out the story later. Me? I like to do both, and not always in some sense of order.
Let’s take that fantasy novel I sometimes mention. The idea for it actually came from another piece of writing I did. I think it was the first time I inspired a story from another story. During college, I had to write a senior thesis, and I wrote a presentation that was poetry and prose combined. Don’t worry; It wasn’t as confusing as it sounds. I was even complemented by one of my professors on my proficiency to mix the two without being awkward. When I decided to dip deep into a fantasy work, I decided to pick out the female protagonist from this thesis and rewrite her story.
At this time, I wrote every bit of prose in third person. I wasn’t confident I could drive an entire plot from the viewpoint of one character, but with the encouragement and urging of a dear writing friend, I picked this idea, already popping those movies into my head at the most awkward of times, to explore it.
So, I had a protagonist, I had a basic plot, and plenty of visions dancing in my head. I knew the tone I wanted to write in. I wrote.