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Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Faith as a Writer


Welcome to IWSG Day. The goal of this blog hop is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a haven for insecure writers of all kinds. IWSG is the brainchild of the amazing and generous Alex Cavanaugh. Thank you to the June co-hosts: SE White, Cathrina Constantine, Natalie Aguire, Joylene Nowell Butler, and Jacqui Murray!

June’s optional question: When the going gets tough writing the story, how do you keep yourself writing to the end? If you have not started the writing yet, why do you think that is and what do you think could help you find your groove and start?

The title of my very first blog post was “I Can Do This.” All these years later that theme continues to resonate through my writing life. Joyce Carol Oates wrote a book called Faith of a Writer. In truth, it’s not my favorite book on craft, but the title has always resonated with me. Faith in my writing allows me to slog through many a story-struggle because once I get something down, I know the result can be edited. So many initial and fairly awful attempts end up deleted or changed beyond recognition, but as long as there is something to work with, I know forward progress is possible. Case in point, my current novel was inspired by a small glass bottle we dug up from our backyard. That bottle has long disappeared from the story, but a draft novel resulted from that initial passage.

Sometimes, when the effort feels notably painful, rather than decide I can’t write, I give myself permission to think. Recently my writing group suggested one of my characters wasn’t giving my story complexity. I agreed but didn’t know how to give it to her. I spent many middle-of-the-night-I-can’t-sleep-hours pondering her—letting her drift around my mind until she obliged me by fleshing herself out. Once I make the changes those think-sessions suggested, she’ll be less wallpaper paste and become more of the pattern itself.

And finally, on pieces like this blog post when often I have no idea what I want to say, I start by writing stream of conscious. Most of that ends up as a pile of discarded word glop—which happened to the entire paragraph with which I initially started today’s post. But once I get something down, a nugget appears that informs me of the direction in which I need to go, and I follow its lead. The fun part is more often than not, I end up in a totally different place than where I thought I would land.

It’s a little like sculpting. I chisel away, cutting, pasting and editing, knowing the right words will emerge as long as I trust they are there.

How do you keep writing when the going gets tough?