Sparked by Words

man-jumpingIt’s the only way to write – your story must mean so much to you that a belly grumbling for food can’t distract your attention from your writing muse. It must grab inside your heart and not let go till you get it down in a computer or journal. It has to keep you up way past bedtime, demanding research, character sketches, and plot plans before allowing pillow face plants. Passion for story should be your motivator, and it must power a writing impulse careening at breakneck speed down the narrative track, not giving up a single phrase or story twist.

Sadly, I read many articles from people who say they get bored with their own work and can’t complete the tale. They start with an idea that chases them around the block for a few months, then are sidelined by the drudgery of writing every day. Polishing dress shoes becomes essential, another frappe calls from the local café, and the story wanes in the journal, ink smeared by drops of sweat left behind as they fled. The computer monitor goes to sleep. They claim to be bored because they know the outcome of the tale. The characters, based on friends and acquaintances, are too familiar. The plot, another murder mystery or fantasy or romance, bodes predictable. They have lots of story ideas, so they say, yet not one completed manuscript.

I think they’re choosing the wrong stuff to write – the wrong plot, genre, characters, situation, or crisis. Maybe they’ve chosen stories similar to the published books they enjoy reading. Maybe their writing is too derivative of what’s popular and they have little freshness to add to the catalogue. Perhaps they really aren’t writers so much as glory hounds, seeking literary fame the way teenagers imagine themselves as Olympic heroes.

I’ve never encountered such doldrums. My worst problems are not a drop in my incentive to write and rewrite, but a lack of time to do so because of other obligations. In fact, my determination to get my stories written and eventually published remains as high as when I first began to type (yes, type) out a story. Story isn’t one fabulous idea about a weird or compelling thing that happens to someone, or an iconic character who discovers one important crusade in his life, or a citizen who intercepts a singular brazen act of sabotage. It can’t be one thing because life isn’t composed of just one thing. It’s a complex and multidimensional constellation of people, eras, and moments.  Telling such a story takes the skill to be comprehensive with plot and subplot, nuanced regarding character development, and obsessed about craftsmanship.  A writer must be relentless about writing the story, beginning to end and all the parts in between.

I like to write but I write about what interests me, “like” being on both ends of the spectrum. Sometimes it isn’t like as much as it is loathe, but my feelings are intense. It’s key, I think, to staying with a story. I develop my characters fully, not only the protagonist and the antagonist, but secondary and even marginal characters. Everyone is important. Each has a history and contribution, not just a convenient link to propel the plot forward, but a significant portion of the development of the story borne on their shoulders. The location of my story is a place I love or hate, and I’ll spend hours investigating or creating it, even building a fictional home at the top of a real hill. I’ll research a moment in history to find out how a true historical incident developed, who was responsible for the events that identify it, what were the consequences of its treaties or partitioning or the destruction of its culture. I’ll find figures who represent the moment and the place and write portions of smaller story elements that fit the larger tale. Each aspect I consider expands the story and gives me something else to write about.

I can’t write if I’m not enthralled by my own stories, but because I am, I do write. I complete a story, and I move on the next story that grabs inside my heart. If you are lackadaisical about your story and stumbling as you try to write, you’re on the wrong track. Find another tale to tell. My stories mean so much to me. Yours must mean as much to you. Good writing, fellow writer.

 

Image courtesy PublicDomainPictures.net

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Comments on: "My Story Means So Much to Me" (18)

  1. I wonder if part of the problem is that as children we are taught to write for others (our teachers) and forget how to write for ourselves. We worry more about what others will think and how we’ll be graded. Writing for school could be terribly soul deadening sometimes!

    Once you get past doing it for others–if you really are a writer and not a glory seeker–the ideas flow naturally if you give yourself time to detox from all the baggage you’ve picked up along the way.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s a very interesting suggestion, that maybe our educational emphasis on writing to meet specific criteria ignores that writing for oneself produces work created enthusiastically. You can always tell when something, anything, is made from strong emotional investment. Thanks for your input, Adriennne.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. We are so much alike in how we research a story. That digging is one of the most exhilarating parts of writing. Lucy is one story I have never tired of. I always want to investigate her life, share it with others. I will have to get the book out there just to see if she’ll [finally] let me go.

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    • I agree with you about the research – it’s exhilarating to investigate events I don’t know much about, but then I could be a college student forever were it not for practical matters.
      Jacqui, you know I also find Lucy’s story fascinating and can’t wait to see it in print.

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  3. I agree with you. I wouldn’t even consider writing something unless it yells at me. The characters have to be pounding my skull demanding to have their story told. If a story doesn’t inspire the author, who can it inspire a literary agent or his/her audience. Good post.

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    • “Unless it yells at me.” I love that – it’s perfect! And says so much about how you’ve accomplished so much with your own writing. I think you write two versions of your stories, book and screenplay, right? Impressive, Andrew.

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  4. Great post – you put it all in perspective for me as to why I stopped writing – couldn’t find the passion you describe. But then again I tend to be a bit flighty in all things I do. I used to beat myself up about not sticking to one thing but now I just embrace it as I flit from one passion to the next. I’m more hummingbird than hawk . . .

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    • I think you haven’t yet found the right story, Judy. That’s key. Many decades ago I could only write children’s stories, not trying to imply that my skills were so low only kids might have appreciated them, but I didn’t have anything to say to adults. So I thought. I had to face a great deal of turmoil and unresolved issues within myself before I realized I had much to say to adults, many worthy stories. I needed that distance of time and the preocuppation of other events – raising a family, building a career – to see the stories I had to tell. Some might say I had to heal, others that I had to grow up, others that I had to mellow out. In any case, I’m passionate now about writing.
      You’ve got other things going on that move you and that are exactly what you need. Not everyone is a writer. You are very creative and talented in other things. I look forward to the brilliant achievements you share.

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      • Thanks Shari, you are a dear friend.
        I’m looking forward to my brrrrrrrrrrrriliant achievements too! And, I will add, it’s quite fun being a hummingbird looking for flowers (although I’m trying to stay away from the sugar water . . . too many empty calories and my wings get tired.)

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      • What an adorable comment, Judy. Yeah, you’re definitely more the hummingbird type. And definitely very creative and motivated.

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  5. Sharon I couldn’t agree with you more — passion is an essential. I became bored with myself on my last project and the writing faltered. I had no choice but to finish it so I looked for creative ways (for me) to try and rejuvenate the narrative. I just cannot wait until I can get my teeth into something that engenders the type of passion that you are speaking about.

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  6. I didn’t write for many years because I felt that I didn’t have anything I’d written that I loved enough. I had plenty of people I loved and worthwhile tasks, and that was enough. But now I do have tales that set my mind and heart on fire, and at times not sleep, nor food, nor anything else can distract me.

    It’s a wonderful feeling. I’m so glad you shared your joy. 🙂

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    • And I’m glad you found passion in writing because it’s obviously working very well for you, Cathleen. For me, writing feels a bit like talking to good friends. Can’t get enough of it. I can see you do the same, and the way you draw so much out of the writers whom you interview – that’s also true passion.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m writing my first novel and found your post really helpful. I haven’t lost my heart for my story. There are days of self-doubt but the compulsion to write because I have a strong commitment to my story overrides this. I write sometimes despite myself because the passion for my plot and characters drives me. It’s not always easy but every time it is so incredibly rewarding!

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    • Hi Lisa, it’s nice to make your acquaintance. I’m humbled by your comments about my post and pleased you found it helpful for your own writing.
      As a writer, I’m always full of self-doubt. So are many other writers, published and unpublished. Doubt seems to be part of the territory. Writing a book is not like winning a sporting event where the final score tells the outcome of the game. Every book has supporters and critics.
      Writing is rewarding. I’m glad you are passionate about your work and hope you keep at it until you see it published. Best wishes on your endeavors.

      Like

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