The other day, I was moved by a friend’s blog post. It was a very honest and compelling post in which she exposed to her readers her sense of frustration in finishing another year without enjoying the sense of emotional fulfillment or financial rewards that her intelligent, well-written, and helpful book should have provided. She is a spiritual woman, a woman of God. I sensed a crisis—not of faith—nothing could shake her faith in God! But, that other crisis in faith: faith in herself.
Secularly, I think we can call it a crisis in confidence— and it can be especially poignant at year’s end.
How many of us plod into the year-end with similar feelings of diminished confidence, at least when contrasted with the buoyancy and unbridled promise we had felt at the beginning? I have a hunch you’re not the only one holding up your hand. I for one have been there … In fact, I’ve visited frequently … and recently. It’s lonely being there. I don’t want to go back and revisit it.
But, I’m the cause of it … at least for me.
And, I’m the only one who can fix it … again, for me.
These last two days, I’ve been putting some thoughts to paper (or, to computer screen). Let me first say I believe there’s little that’s new under the sun, so what you’ll have here are some old, worn thoughts, hopefully all spiffed up with some new clothes.
I’m calling it the Phases of Creating (but, just between you and me, it was Jay Squires, Author, who’s responsible that pretentious title).
Still, here we go:
Phase One: Envisioning! You start out your new year (or your new novel, short story, painting, rug-making, whatever), with all the wonder and the excitement and the promise of the Great Unknown. The taste is raw, crisp and sweet. Your vision is crystalline. The end is clearly in sight, within your grasp and you anticipate, you even romanticize, the difficulties you might face along the way to the end. This is the gunpowder in your musket. Without it the ball will simply roll out of the barrel and fall to the ground.
Phase One-and-One-Half: Planning! I don’t even want to give this a phase of its own. It has nothing to do with structuring your novel, outlining it, or notching in a middle to a beginning and an end. That’s all part of the execution phase, most likely its first step.
What I’m talking about is preparatory to all of that, and probably second in importance only to that glorious envisioning. It is the carving out of the time you will devote to your project. I mentioned in a previous post that I used the “Don’t Break the Chain Calendar” as a tool for my time planning (Free and downloadable, by the way!). I was determined to write for three hours every day on my fantasy novel. Okay? At the end of each writing stint I put a red X on that day of my calendar. Folks, this is nothing less than the ball in your musket! If you don’t plan, then at the end of the year, or before it, you’ll be shooting out a cloud of gunpowder!
Phase Two: Execution! I think it was Henry Miller who said, “When you sit, sit … When you stand, stand … But don’t wobble.” When you write, write. When you paint, paint. Don’t say after your block of one-two or three hours that you’ve been writing or painting when you spent most of that time on the phone or reading your past chapters, or repainted that shadow from the twig. All you’re doing is wobbling. And you know it!
This is not a procedural. There are as many different procedures as there are writers, painters, sculptors or rug-makers. Procedure is an individual thing. The one constant, though, is this: there is honest and dishonest, good and bad, true and false. And, to get to the honest, good and true, you must work through the dishonest, bad and false. I found that it took me one hour on an exceptional day, two hours on most days, of dishonest, bad, false—and throw in phony for good measure—writing before I got to the honest good and true.
And, here is the critical idea that sums up what I’ve been trying to say up to this point: If I hadn’t established my plan of writing three hours a day, each and every day, and reinforced it [in my case] with a tool, like the calendar I mentioned above, I would likely have not gotten past the first one or two hours of dishonest, bad and false writing.
Now, if you execute the plan you envisioned, you will, one fine and glorious day, be able to scribble or type the end. That, if it’s a novel. If it’s a painting—well, I guess you let it dry!
Essentially, you’ve pulled the trigger. Felt the recoil. The as-yet-unanswered question is: did you reach your target?
But, not so fast! You are about to enter (not the Twilight Zone, but):
Phase Three: The Big Oh-Oh! The honest, the good and the true can be encapsulated with the title of Genius or Inspired. The dishonest, the bad and the false, in my case, bear the title of Jay Squires, Author.
I’ll finish my 600 + page fantasy novel in about a week. It will have been written by Jay Squires, Author.
The first thing I’ll do after weighing it in at about a pound and a half is to admit that it is much too long for commercial publication! Knowing that—and further knowing I want to validate my efforts by getting it published, I’m going to have to go back, chapter-by-chapter for perhaps another 2 or 3 hours a day, onward through what could be another year.
And, what will I be doing?
You can call it revising. Some call it editing.
Essentially, what I’ll be doing is winnowing out the oh-so-refined-and-pretty voice of Jay Squires, Author. (I know him well. He’ll be easy to find.) It’ll take work, but what will be left when I finish, if it comes anywhere near to matching my phase one vision, should be the essential, the simple integrity, the honest, the good and the true.
And, I know I’ll have hit the target.
Or one sure as hell hopes!