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.