I spent much of today with a writer friend of mine, and right before I was to leave, I had a stunning revelation!
The reason I’m struggling so hard to express my creativity lies in years and years of daily journalism.
Yesterday, I was an editor’s dream. My grammar was spot on, my punctuation perfect, my facts checked and re-checked, my copy was readable, tight, and in perfect inverted pyramid format. I didn’t need to be creative, or think about word count, or wonder if someone was going to buy or read my story — I had a ready-made audience, and I became so practiced at what I did that it wasn’t much of a challenge any more.
Time to tackle a new objective, writing a novel.
Now, you might think that since I’ve written practically my entire life, a novel would be a cake-walk.
You’d be wrong.
It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever undertaken.
Besides handling the basics — grammar, punctuation, spelling, research — I’ve learned I have to worry about plot, structure, dialog, point of view, first lines that “hook,” resolving all brought-up issues, characterization, timeline, setting, tension, denouement, final chapters that resonate with readers, and a gazillion other things while I’m writing.
Suddenly, there’s no magic formula other than “show, don’t tell.”
So I’m tackling this project the same way I usually tackle something new — researching the daylights out of it, soaking up as much information as possible from others more experienced than I, and practicing, practicing, practicing!
This struggle to free myself from the constraints of “formulaic” prose is frustrating. Why can’t I slap words on a page like my writing friend and have them mean something, tell a story, invoke feelings? What happened to the creativity I exhibited as a child? What can I do to get it back?