Tuesday, May 01, 2007

That is the Question

Okay before I start this blog post, I just wanted to say, yes I changed the picture. And yes Lesley it was procrastination, but you were the inspiration, I noticed on your blog that big pretty picture of you and I wanted one for me too! I'm not sure if I'll stick with this picture, may want a happy smiling one really, but I suck at making decisions so maybe I'll play around a bit, and people can tell me which they prefer. I dunno.

Now for today's post on questions.

First of all let me say that there are no stupid questions. I come from teaching royalty, as most of you know, and as such learned this at a very young age. Every question has value, and you can learn from every answer. Never be afraid to ask.

That being said, there comes a time when the act of asking can detract slightly too much from the act of doing. That a desire to be validated, can hinder a chance to express yourself.

When it comes to writing there are certain questions that I think one should ask. "What is the proper way to use an apostrophe?" for example, a question which is oddly not asked enough quite frankly. These questions are quick, there is a definitive answer depending on the country you live in (as we know grammar and spelling rules vary from place to place), and one can move on.

However then there are the questions like: "Can one write a book about a bear who misses his mother so much that he becomes ill and only a small rabbit can save him by going on a quest to the big city?" There are questions like, "Should I write in first person or third?" And still others, "Is it okay that my main character is very unlikable?"

Now these questions aren't stupid, as I said there is no such thing. These questions can inspire debate, and philosophical questions about the nature of stories with bears, or which is easier to write, first or third person, or a discussion on the long lineage of anti-heroes out there.

But as an actual question to be answered? "Am I allowed to do this?" questions become far more problematic.

Because, you see, the real answer to any of those questions is: "Well write it and see."

And this is my concern now with all the writing forums, and the classes, and critique groups out there (and please believe me that I do think these all serve important functions - I am a member of many writing forums, have taken many a creative writing class and have a circle of friends with whom I share my work, and they theirs with me. I am simply commenting on the negative right now, as an olive branch I promise to write an entry on the positives as well later this week).

There seems to be a huge concern with writing in the "right" way. Of what is the 'correct' method of doing things. And that the thrill of discovery, of play, of, dare I say it, making a mistake, has been rather white washed.

The amazing thing to me about anything creative (this goes for acting as well) is that you really can go wild with your imagination. Go anywhere, do anything. What you come up with may not work, but there is nothing stopping you from giving it a try. And you know what, making a mistake, getting it wrong? It isn't the worst thing in the world. So it doesn't work out. Big deal. Try something different. At least you've learned something in the process.

You see the more we self edit, before we've even put pen to paper as it were, the less likely we are to get the job done. To constantly question, "Am I doing this right?" especially in such a creative field, is to narrow your line of vision. I was always told that the first draft of writing was the vomit on the page. You're just getting it out there. It's when you finish that that you go back and question, and edit, and fix up everything.

Anyway, this post doesn't go out to anyone in particular. We have all, in our own ways, sought out validation for our choices, asked leading questions in the hopes of overwhelming approval of our ideas. Okay, well maybe just I have. But I say in general, and to me too, really I need to hear this, the next time you start out writing, when the instinct comes up asking, "But can one do this?" or "Is this any good?", let's suppress the urge to ask, and just do. And just see what happens. It could be crap. No, it really could.

Or, you know, it could be brilliant.


David L. McAfee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

The new photo is confident, elegant, and you look absolutely beautiful - but very serious.

The previous photo appeared more in keeping with both the tone of this blog and your soon to be published novel.

I think you should smile!


David L. McAfee said...

Excellent post, Adrienne. I couldn't agree more. Just do it and see!

As to the photo, well...I like them both. I think I like the other one a bit more, though. JMO. :)

(both are lovely)

Anonymous said...

( "Am I doing this right?" )

I've had to try out different work styles. My first book was the "leave holes and fix it later" approach. Four drafts later it still sucked.

The latest was at the urging of a published friend to just "write it right the first time, don't be lazy." That worked for me because I was always engaged in the details. But, I write historical fiction, so it was necessary.

Just popping by, by the way. Nice blog!

Adrienne said...

Glad people liked the post!

jamie, I know what you mean, it takes different frames of mind to do it. Still you just did it, whatever choice it was, and that's the important thing.

Oh and everyone, how's this picture for people then?

Anonymous said...

Much better!

And you're wearing colour, of which I highly approve.


Anonymous said...

I feel as if something's missing from your photo. Like a funny hat piled high with fruit or something. Something to make it sillier. Maybe that's just because you've written a children's book. (Or maybe I just want to see you try to balance fruit on your head.)

As for the entry, it strikes close to me. One of those topics that's so serious I can't even comment on it. Sorry.

Dawn said...

This post speaks to me, Adrienne. I have a finished first draft which is crap and thirty odd thousand words of a first draft which took a weird direction until I finally said 'this is getting silly' and stopped.

I've read several posts recently that are speaking to me strongly. They're all saying 'get those drafts out and take another look at them'.

And I believe I will. Thanks

Adrienne said...

Hmm . . . fruit on my head . . . but I am a very SERIOUS children's book writer. Very very . . . serious . . . yes. . .

Dawn - it must be a sign. Time to dust off those old MSS!

Leah J. Utas said...

Mistakes are fun. They're a great way to learn what works and what does not.
As for what we're allowed to write, well, if we stuck to that very little would ever get written.

J m mcdermott said...

i think sucking is an important part of the writing process. i have never in my life seen a *good* rough draft. fortunately, no one else has to see the rough draft.

my ten cents: everyone is a writer. we tell stories over beer/coffee/tea. we write e-mails. we tell jokes and anecdotes.

but, the difference between a serious/pro writer and everyone else is that we edit afterwards.

thus, we're actually professionally editors of our own writing.

that said, sucking is a necessary part of the process. worrying about good or bad is a different step, entirely.

Heidi the Hick said...

first draft= vomit on the page!!!

Yup. I've got four binders full of paper on my shelf to prove it too!

However I've also got one that I might be able to turn into something good. this is a very good post...and I like your smiling photo!