Blog, Writing Blog

When Writing Is Like Breathing (But Not Like You Think)

Have you ever tried to concentrate on your breathing?

Like during a meditation or when the doctor tells you take a deep breath while he’s listening to your heart? Ever notice what happens? Suddenly, the simple act of breathing in becomes incredibly difficult. Your breathing in when he quickly tells you to breath out, but you’re not done breathing in and you don’t have enough air sucked to complete a full breath out and what does oxygen taste like again and why is your heart beating so hard and it’s a wonder you’re not passed out in a gutter somewhere if breathing is this damn difficult…

Or when you start paying particular attention to how you walk and suddenly notice that you are pigeon-toed and might not actually be able to walk in a straight line and then you’re tripping over what you can only assume was an invisible stick because if not it means you tripped over air…

Well, this tendency to find something much harder once we are actually paying attention to it is exactly why I am a Panster.

Ya follow?

No? Lemme ‘splain.

When I actually start to think about writing, like on the days where I have set aside time to do my own writing rather than work writing, suddenly, it’s as if I’ve never written a single word.

Nothing happens. Every single word is a struggle. What is words, I think as I peck at the keyboard like a 90-year-old faced with a computer for the first time. Confound this infernal machine!

But, in those moments when I have a spare second so I grab a notebook and or a computer just to jot down a few thoughts…miracles happen.

I can’t stop writing. I am pulled to the keyboard by one of those canes reserved for really bad vaudeville acts. The keyboard calls to me…TYPE! TYPE! (though, I have a feeling that if keyboards really talked they would be a little more eloquent) and my creative mind whirs to life. And I’m stuck writing some of my best stuff while a little voice inside me yells, No! This is wrong! You’re being irresponsible, you have other things you should be doing. And I respond, Screw you!

This may be a little dramatic, but you get the general idea.

When I think about writing I can no longer write.

Which explains why I am (usually) a Panster. If I try to plan an outline or map out scenes, I feel like I’m overthinking it. What would my character do after finding out she is responsible for the fate of the world? Crickets. C’mon, brain. You have to get this outline done so you know what you’re going to write next. More crickets. And not of the helpful Jiminy variety, either.

(Me, waiting for ideas while trying to outline)

The annoying kind that keep you up all night when you’re on a camping trip and sick to death of nature and all her noisy little creatures.

But, let me just start writing and I know what she’s going to do next and how she feels about it and how the other characters will react and how this will effect chapter 18 and how this moment is pivotal to the climax and how many grandchildren she will have once she’s saved the world and settled down with a nice fella.

This is also why I do my best work right up against a deadline. Because there’s no time to think. If I don’t write, I don’t get paid. Or, I don’t get to be part of the contest. Or I fail NanoWriMo. Or I don’t get to read at Fiction 440. I have to write and that’s all there is to it. So, I do.

I don’t know why my brain works like this, sometimes I wish it didn’t. But, now that I know it, I can work with it.

For instance, I have been outlining more but my outlines are very loosey-goosey (that’s a technical term, write it down). Sometimes I start writing when I’m outlining and I let myself. What started out as an outline turns into a few paragraphs I can actually use. Lovely. It’s almost more of a summary than an outline, very stream of consciousness. But, whatever it is, it works for me.

So, when I see some of you outliners out there struggling to finish your map, I wonder…are you overthinking it? What would happen if you just started writing? Live a little. Write one sentence. Write another. Pick a random part of your novel and just go. I know, it’s scary…but it’s also fun. Feel those tingles? Well, that’s because you’re sitting on your foot. First move, then write.

Write a paragraph that isn’t part of your outline and post it here. See what happens. If you don’t use it, you don’t use it.

C’mon…don’t be scared. Don’t think, just write.

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