Writing The Wrong Stuff

archangel (raphael).small
Archangel (Raphael)

Yesterday afternoon was warm and sunny, and I did not resist.  I took myself, my writing, and an iced decaf latte, outside to the porch swing.  I spent most of the afternoon writing backstory for my book, working out why my main character wants what she wants, and laying out her defining misbelief that constantly throws her off track.

Halfway through the writing, I sensed something was off track and it wasn’t the character I was writing about.  It was me.  Somehow I lost the main point and sent myself chasing words down a side track.

I completed the piece anyways, and ended it with “Rats, rats, rats, this is wrong!”

It is not lost on me that I went off track writing about my character’s misbelief that sends her off track.

Today I will go back.

Again, I will write about my character wanting what she wants, and her tricky misbelief.  This time I will deliberately aim the writing in a different direction, and see where I end up.  But first, I’m going to reread what I wrote yesterday.  There may be a gem of an idea I overlooked, one that really does have a place in the story.  Even if I see no gem, I will keep the draft of what I think is wrong stuff.

I keep my drafts because of what I learned and use all the time as an artist.  Sometimes mistakes point me in a direction I had not considered, and sometimes it takes me a while to see it.

I keep my drafts, even the ones that seem wrong, because they tell me where I have been in the story, and they remind me of what wasn’t working and what I didn’t want.  Been there, don’t have to go there again.

I keep my drafts because of my Dad.  He told me once, when I was fourteen and suffering through a high school course I felt was useless, that everything I learn I will use at some point in my life.  I listened, and the words stuck.

So here I am, choosing to find a use for my wrong-stuff-writing, instead of judging it a wasted writing session and tossing the pages.  Even if I discover no gem in the words, it prompted my blog post for today, and that is gem enough.

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In this post:

I am using the book Story Genius by Lisa Cron, Ten Speed Press, 2016, to guide me through my main character’s backstory.  This book is definitely a gem.   http://wiredforstory.com

Asking The Right Question

Cat Fink 'What Gives Me Joy Nov 9 2016 (books)'I discovered, at six years old, that words and books were magic.  I read a story and became a different person in a world and experience new to me.  I saw and felt the story like a movie in my body.  I became the characters.  Total magic.

That first magic of reading stayed with me, and out of it grew a second magic, writing.  I love the magic of writing, how it leads me to discovery and understanding.  The magic was busy this week as I worked on the backstory of my book, and something new came home to me about creating the truest story I can.

Here is what I realized.

As I write, I ask myself questions about the story being created.  I do this each time I write, but what I came to this week is beyond asking questions.  It is about asking the right question.

I write intuitively, so while I always ask who, where, what, how, and when, I don’t need to ask why.  In writing intuitively, the why is already present for me.  It drives the initial idea, the writing, and the story, even though I do not consciously articulate it to myself.

The problem with not consciously asking why is that the answer remains silent.  The information stays in my unconscious.  I might get close to expressing it, but much of the information is running underneath the surface of the words.

I know, as a reader, I don’t need why spelled out for me all the time.  I see it in the experiences, beliefs, needs, and wants of the characters.  The choices they make come out of that, and the story shows this to me.

As a writer, I’ve discovered I can’t leave the why sitting in my intuition.  I need to consciously lay it out for myself as part of the backstory.  My readers may not need it spelled out, but I do.  Specifically answering why gives me knowledge that informs my writing, and provides me clues as to what needs to be written into the story.  Once I’ve done the writing, this knowledge forms a base to measure against as I review what I have written.

Lisa Cron’s book Story Genius has walked me into this deeper understanding of my story-creating process.  I am working my way through the questions she asks, forming the backstory so I have a clear picture of my protagonist when the story opens.  All of who this character is, is her why.  All of who she is informs and drives the choices she makes as the story progresses.  I know what is pushing her, even when she doesn’t, and the knowledge helps me shape how I show and tell, shapes the words I choose, shapes what I choose to both offer and hold back from the reader.

I will continue to write intuitively but now, after the first draft is on the page, I will go back and consciously, deliberately ask myself the question that needs asking—why.

Thank you, Lisa, for showing me how to ask the right question.

_______________________

In this post,

Book Story Genius by Lisa Cron, Ten Speed Press, 2016.  http://wiredforstory.com/

Tea With A Friend

iced tea at Disneyland.blogA good friend came by today, a fellow artist who I see weekly in the Fall and Winter when I am living in my northern home.  She’s on vacation at the moment, so we took our time.  We talked, caught ourselves up on each other’s families and lives.  We drank tea with lemon.

She told me of a painting she’s creating of the clouds of Jupiter, and a show coming up next month.  I read her some of the back story I am writing for my book draft.  Too quickly (isn’t it always) our visit was done.  We hugged and said goodbye, and she left for the ferry.

My friends who paint and write are blessings in my life.  More than a blessing, they are supports in my life.  We trade inspiration and plans, questions and comments, successes and struggles.  Our friendships are a safe space to play with our creative ideas, the ones only yet a glimmer or half-grown, as well as the ones ready for the world.

There is power in our relationships.  I know I am a better artist and writer because of these women.  I trust them to see what I have missed or hidden from myself, and ask me the questions that need asking.  My images and words are clearer and more focussed because of these friendships.  I am more courageous in what I create because I know they have my back and I have theirs.

Our visit today reminds me how essential and treasured time with friends is for me.  Everything we talk of, families and art and writing, strengthens us, makes us laugh, soothes us.  We help make each other whole.

Our visit today reminds me it is coming time to meet some new artist-writer friends here in my new home.  Yes, find more kindred spirits, as Anne of Green Gables would say.

Thank you, Lynn and Kate.  Thank you, Wren and Yvonka and Fran.  You help me be the artist and writer I am.

Writing Home

1.'Laid to Rest 80,000...Spirits (east)'--Cat Fink
Laid To Rest 80,000 Obstructing Spirits (east)

I moved to my southern studio in late March.  It takes a couple weeks to find rhythm and routine when I shift from one studio and home to the other.  I’m always a bit off balance during those two weeks, but I notice this time it is seven weeks plus and I am still not settled.

I know that I haven’t been writing my morning pages.  When I count back, I see three days written out of the fifty-three days I have been here.  “Not very good,” my mind comments on the obvious.

It’s a direct route for me, from an absence of morning pages to an absence of writing and drawing as my daily priority.  Morning pages are the doorway.  They remind me how vital creating is to my life, and how I am not paying attention to something that is breath for me.

Not only am I not paying attention to what I need, I am not allowing myself to choose that creating comes first in my day.

Do I not love myself enough to let myself do the thing I love?

This is a new studio and home.  I am taking care of the new-home tasks, and not taking care of myself and my creative practice.

No one is pushing me to do the home tasks first.  There is only me pushing me, and  I need to quit pushing.  Better yet, I need to write my morning pages because always, solutions and the right choice show up in those pages.  Balance shows up.

Sigh.

Here I am, reaching for balance in my life again.

When I don’t write morning pages, I am no longer at home to myself.  I am not living in the centre of me, my life, and my creativity.  No surprise, then, that I am currently out of sorts and resenting the to-do list I wrote.

This is an old pattern, putting all else before my creative needs.  I struggled with it in art school, and made it the theme of my graduating body of work.  I’ve been through this so many times, I thought I had it solved.  I should be more like a friend’s mother, who frequently served burned dinners because she was at the other end of the house, painting in her studio.  She had her priorities right.  I should hang one of her paintings (I have five) on my studio wall, just to remind me.  Yes, put that on the to-do list.

This is all about choice and loving myself.  The choice is always mine to give myself permission and do something I love.  The choice is always mine to make creativity my first priority.  I choose, again.  Write my morning pages, find my centre, then write and draw myself home.

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In this post:

Morning pages come from Julia Cameron and her book The Artist’s Way: 25th Anniversary Edition, Penguin Publishing Group, 2016.  I purchased my first copy in 1994, the year before I entered art school.  I have two more copies, 2002 editions, with my teaching notes scribbled all over the margins and end papers.  That first one saved me in 1994.  Thank you, Julia.  http://juliacameronlive.com/

Standing In The Noonlight

joydiary17.page28and29.2018I’ve been reading the Tiffany Aching Discworld series by Terry Pratchett, finishing one book and immediately trading it for the next.  Such joy to immerse myself in the world of a master wordsmith.

Sir Terry uses a perfect, invented word, noonlight, in the first book of the series The Wee Free Men.  I love this word.  I agree with him, it should be a real word.  As far as I am concerned, it’s in a book so that makes it a real word.  He made it so.

Since finishing this book, the phrase “standing in the noonlight” has been stuck in my mind.  I can tell it has a particular meaning for me, and when something sticks, I need to explore it.

I know I have to be blazingly honest with myself when I write and draw.  I have to see what I am thinking and believing, and feel everything I need to feel.  Together, the seeing-thinking-believing-feeling allow me to create with my heart open.

I have to stand in the noonlight to create in this way.  Brilliant, blazing light that shows all, both what I want to see and what I would rather keep hidden.  There is no hiding in noonlight because there are no shadows.  Standing in brilliant, heart-open honesty, and creating from this place despite the sometimes-hurt, leads me to my best writing and my best drawing.

There is relief in seeing all of me.  No hiding means I can drop the effort it takes to pretend something is other than it is.  When I see all of me, the power of choice becomes mine, and choice is power.  Choice allows me to create something new, if I want to.

The truth is I am not always ready to handle the effort and potential pain of making a new choice and changing myself.

But, witnessing something I don’t like in myself puts a crack in it.  A crack is enough.  That’s all I need to eventually, when I am ready, get into that something and choose to change.

Writing and drawing in the noonlight helps me widen the crack.  I can turn my thoughts and feelings into words and images, then turn the words and images just the right way so blazing brilliance shines in.  Here I am.  Here is what I think and believe.  Here is what I feel.  Here in this light, I grasp my power to choose and create new.

Writing and drawing are my noonlight.  I am not always aware of what is running under the surface of me.  Creating in word and image shows me what I am not seeing and not feeling.  Standing in the noonlight wakes me up to everything I am.

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In this post:

Terry Pratchett is one of my favourite authors.   https://www.terrypratchettbooks.com/

The drawing at the top of this post is from The Joy Diary Sketchbook I completed for the Brooklyn Art Library’s 2018 Sketchbook Project.  I had such fun, I am doing it again, this time with two of my artist-writer friends.  Who knows what magic will show up this time when we stand in the noonlight?   https://www.brooklynartlibrary.com/