Several years ago I took quite a few creative writing classes. I would write stories, take them to class, and my classmates and I would workshop the stories. I studied English language and literature. I wrote poetry and in general I felt I was learning as a writer. I even had a poem published in an academic literary journal.
A few years ago I declared that I wanted to write a novel. Friends scoffed at this which kind of angered me. I sat down and wrote a 150,000 word psychic vampire serial killer novel. Yup. You read correctly. And it was slammed out in about six weeks and it was dreadful.
I also was writing short stories at the time and started submitting to critters.org. Critters is an online writing workshop for writers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. I met several really wonderful people online via critters and many of them have become very good friends. Because of these contacts and continuing to write and experiment and read and think and play with and about the writing, I feel I have learned a great deal. I have a very good sense of what goes into good fiction. Elements of plot and characterization. How to use pacing and subtext. All sorts of things.
The problem that I have now is that I know almost too much. I get great ideas for stories and novels and poems. I can imagine the elements and how I want to design the stories, but I have a very hard time just doing the writing. Sometimes I start these stories and they go no where or I get boggled trying to decide who should be the point of view character or I am not certain where to start the story, etc. Sometimes I freeze.
I have decided that writing as an art takes a certain amount of fearlessness. It’s like watercolour painting. In watercolour painting a great deal of planning goes into the painting and then one builds the colours in steps, but the whole project can be over in minutes either due to completion or because the fluidity of the paint has pulled the pigments across the painting in undesirable ways. Usually when I do watercolour painting I do more than one painting at a time and if I lose a few it is no big deal. The writing takes a great deal of planning and forethought and then the writing itself takes time. I am nervous about making mistakes, wasting a good idea, and losing the time invested in the story. This is causing me to freeze up. I am nervous about even starting stories.
Recently I have been trying to do my own kind of independent MFA. I read a couple of short stories per week and I am working on reading a novel by Graham Greene. I analyze what I am reading and make notes on what the authors are doing in the composition of the stories. I am also reading books about writing. This blog has become part of the way that I write and immerse myself in words daily. I am hoping that if I keep working at this that I can get unstuck.
Who would have thought that sitting at the desk and writing would require such fearlessness?