Everyone has habits that hamper them. Writers seem especially sensitive to this. We sometimes call it writer’s block or losing the muse (did you check under the seat cushions?). Often it is just the habit of letting life get in the way because writing is hard. My habit that often derails my writing involves mentally picturing the end result and letting this picture of what it should be prevent me from actually putting the work into getting it there.
Planning and having an idea where a story needs to go is a great and essential skill. Even Pansters need to have that vision when they get to editing their story. I wander back and forth between plotting and pantsing. Somewhere along this planning, I have a picture and a feeling of my work in my head. I craft this picture and refine it until it shines in the mental sun. I bask in the glow of the perfect story in my head. Then I look back to the page. The dull page with little black scratches on it. This isn’t the perfect image I have in my head, I say. It somehow feels better to spend time in my head than on the page, so the project stalls.
I have already read the story in my head and enjoyed it, so it feels weird going through it again on the page. Especially when the story on the page doesn’t ever seem as cool or fulfilling than the thing in my head. And then I realize that the thing in my head has morphed to more of a feeling, a sensation of greatness, than an actual picture, an actual story to write. At this point the writing process breaks down even further.
In marches discipline. Discipline to work on the page. To push the words around until they approach the glory I already have enjoyed in my head. There is a commentary by Ira Glass that has made its rounds on the internet about learning art. I like this one with the moving typography. It isn’t very long and definitely worth watching/listening.
I definitely fall into the gap that Ira is talking about. I have the vision in my head of what I want my art to be like and struggle to get it onto the page. To counter this, I am working on discipline to do the work and just practice. Push the words around (even if randomly at times) until I see them begin to line up with the vision.
Hearing Ira talk about this gap makes me feel like it is a common enough problem for creative types and I am not alone in it. That is good because the writing process can feel very much alone sometimes. Recognizing the problem is the first step to combating it. Here are a few things I have tried to help fight this problem of having a mental sensation overshadow the actual story.
1) Write notes with paper and penIn the digital age it seems weird somehow to make notes on paper, but it is totally wonderful. It is freeform. I can sketch little pictures instead of having to force words to things. Words can be related with lines and arrows easily. This all helps me try to put concrete form to the ideas in my head and keep them in the realm of the story.
2) Just WriteWe hear it a lot from plenty of the big name writers. Do the work. Sit and write. Whatever other form of the saying they choose. Actually to sit down and attempt to get the story down seems to help me. I may not always get the exact shining image in my head, but sometimes I get different wonderfulness on the page.
3) Be ok with it – “Perfect is the enemy of done.”
Part of #2 is seeing that although the story I did write isn’t the same as the story in my head, it is still pretty cool sometimes. So part of getting over this for me is being ok with what I did write. This is not the same as skipping editing, but it means not tossing ideas on the page just because they don’t match exactly the ones in the shiny mystical vision in the mind.
Do you have this problem of the vision being greater than the page?Any other tips to combat this?