The Lit Doctor: Experimental Therapy Between Universes

Stay with me, I don't think I've entirely lost my mind.  I was pondering the "writers write" maxim once again, allowing myself to grow more and more annoyed because this state is one in which I sometimes stumble over my best ideas.  The thing that's the most annoying about "writers write" is that there's no valid argument against it, so it's used as a blanket comeback to various problems writers or would-be writers face.  The fact of it being true doesn't necessarily make it a solution or a helpful piece of advice.

Even writers who don't suffer from depression and/or anxiety often have depressive and/or anxious tendencies when it comes to their own writing.  So this determined American pulling oneself up by one's own feather quill approach simply isn't doing it for me.  It's not that it's a bad idea, it's just that in many situations, it's probably not enough.  And this idea that because you struggle, because you've been discouraged by one thing or another and gotten yourself crammed into one of the small spaces created by the publishing industry or personal life factors or the society you live in just generally being dickish toward writers, you don't really want to write or shouldn't...well, I'm just not buying that.

I've been conducting an experiment these last few weeks.  I've been writing in a word processing document I call my "exercise journal" every day.  I came up with an initial goal of two thousand words a day, which I have not precisely stuck to, but I've also stopped doing word counts as I've gotten more into the spirit of the thing.  

I've set myself other goals in the past, which have worked or not worked to varying degrees.  

The main difference between this approach and past approaches is that I have committed myself to keeping things interesting and relevant to my current mood.  When I write in my journal, I am not simply "journaling" or engaging in reflective or obsessive self-analysis, I'm writing in a more or less "literary" style (I use "style" in the broadest sense of the word here).  However, this style can be (and should be) applied to the most immediate experiences, feelings and circumstances.  In other words, I write about things that I see or that are preoccupying me at the moment, but rather than simply spilling or extracting my thoughts and feelings, I keep myself artistically engaged.  If I start to bore myself or become overly expository, I immediately switch to another train of thought.

I also decided to allow myself to lapse into fiction at any point provided it came naturally.  As with any other writing in the journal, if the fictional world that was developing became boring, I simply left it and moved on to something else.

Here's an excerpt:
It just started pouring rain again. I had to close the window halfway. The thunder set off a car alarm. It's going through the usual rigmarole, but no one is around to hear it. Or possibly a lot of people, with their windows half-open, are around to hear it, and care about as much as I do.  Is that really what happened? Can thunder set off a car alarm? I'm sure lightning can, if it hits the car.
Try, for the moment, to ignore the basic rambling stupidity of the above example, and allow me to use it in explaining how this works.  Having chosen that bit to sacrifice here, I've put the tags [copied to journal] [/copied to journal] around it.  If I copy something somewhere else to expand upon it, or rewrite it in a subsequent entry, I also tag it to alert myself to this fact.  In this way, everything that isn't tagged is fair game for rewrites, incorporation, transformation, and/or eventual publication (in some form or other).

This was part of my original intention, to create a hunting ground of sorts for myself.

This experiment is still in the early testing stages, but there have been some unexpected results, which I'll share in a moment.

While the hunting ground approach might work for shorter fiction, it didn't initially seem to be a way to get a longer piece of fiction written.  I assumed my attention would lapse too often, and this approach was specially engineered to allow those lapses in attention rather than trying to rein them in.  I've been trying to work on a particular novel for a while now, but it hasn't been holding still long enough for me to write it.  I've done quite a bit of actual writing on and around and about it, but that hasn't helped.  At other writers' advice, I've created outlines, backstory, etc., but that hasn't gotten the job done, either.

Writing itself is not that hard for me.  I could have produced a novel by now.  I certainly could have produced enough relevant material to make a novel.  But I want this novel.  What novel, you might ask.  How do you know what it's supposed to be if you haven't finished it?  To which I might reply, how do you know the annoying co-worker sitting across from you right now isn't in fact the love of your life?

Pursuing something because you want it is a no-brainer.  If the wanting stops, so does the pursuit.  A person may still be open to unexpected joy, but that doesn't mean they're going to dance around wildly looking for it under various rocks.  Not that I have anything against this approach, it's just not workable for me.

What has happened, though, is that as I've started writing regularly in my journal, I've resumed work on my novel without ever making a conscious effort to do so.  The entries have naturally segued into it.  Also, while before when I would restart work on it I would usually come at it from an entirely new angle, this time I started building on previous material.

I have no idea if this will continue.  I can only hope it will, and go on with my experiment.

I don't want to draw any definite conclusions at this time, but I have one playing around in the back of my mind.  It goes something like this: Maybe, when it comes to creating a fictional world, there is a certain logic that makes that world tick which can only be fully understood through a specific medium (in this case, words) if that same medium is applied to understanding and expressing the logical movement of "life."  After all, fiction is something resembling life.

Another possible explanation is that by simply removing the pressure to concentrate, I've improved my ability to concentrate.



PRESCRIBED TREATMENT: 500-2000 words a day as specified above.

POTENTIALLY TREATABLE CONDITIONS: "Writer's block," lack of confidence in one's writing abilities or lack of confidence in one's ability to create a cohesive fictional world.  It's possible that this treatment might be equally effective for those attempting other types of writing, in which case the concept of parallel "universes" or "worlds" might be swapped out for different purposes and methods.  However, the core idea of applying a regimen to a type of writing that one can do more or less "anytime" as opposed to a type that is more pressure-laden and goal-oriented, should remain.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU MISS A DOSE: If same day, administer as soon as you remember.  If a day has passed, skip it and continue with regular dosage.

SIDE EFFECTS: None recorded, but be sure to report any side effects in the comments section of this blog to pass on the information to others and ensure the best possible experience for everyone. ☺

Disclaimer:  I am not really any kind of doctor.  Take me with a couple grains of salt.

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