The Continuing Story of My Second Draft

bryan-jack-building-house
‘Jack Built My House’ by Bryan Fink

I’ve posted several times about doing the second draft of my book.  This is the latest installment in the eighteen-month story of my efforts.

One word describes things at the moment.  Confused.

I’m adding others.  Messy.  I am okay with messy.  Messy happens in all my creating at some point.  It gives me possibilities.  Having been a neat and tidy child, as an adult I enjoy messy.  Also, I know how to go from messy to focused, a useful talent.

Another word.  Procrastinating.  Somehow, and I have said this before, other jobs and delights keep taking precedence over my second draft.  Strange how that happens.

Yesterday I am telling one of my fellow artist-writer friends about this.  We come to the conclusion I need to clear a chunk of time for only the draft.  Yes.  I do this.  Now marked off in my diary is February through May.  My friend will meet with me throughout this time to help me keep accountable to myself in getting the draft done.  Cool.

A third word.  Blind.  This draft feels like I’m doing a jigsaw puzzle without the picture from the box top to tell me how things should look.

I tell this to another artist-writer friend.  She talks about finding the arc of the story, a kind of outline.  Oh.

I know about outlines.  I tried one out at the start and it drove me crazy.  I learned I am a writer who feels her way through the story.  As Nanowrimo fans say, I’m a pantser, not a plotter.

I am very visual in my thinking.  My friend says ‘arc of the story’.  In response, I see the image of an arc drawn on a big sheet of paper, with me writing sticky notes all along it.  This makes sense.  A way of creating an outline that works for me.  Here is my picture of how things will look when I am done.  Yay!  The picture will likely shift as I go.  That’s okay.  I still have a picture to play with.

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Believing is seeing

Velveteen_RabbitThere is a story I read uncounted times before I was ten years old. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams.

I loved not only the words. I loved the drawings by William Nicholson as well. I would trace my finger along the lines of the words and images. I wasn’t consciously imagining I was writing or drawing. No. But there was something compelling, some feeling that filled me as my finger touched the shapes on the pages. Two dimensions becoming three dimensions in my imagination.

In Margery’s story, love and belief change the velveteen rabbit from stuffed toy to Real.

Isn’t this what I am doing, every time I write and draw? Love and belief becoming the words on the page and the lines in the drawing. Words becoming story. Lines becoming image. Real.

I hear people say believing is seeing. They are right.

Belief changes everything.

So does love.

When I write and draw, I can’t see the end of what I am creating. I don’t know how the story will close. I can’t see the image that will be there after I place the last mark on the paper.

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Lions and tigers and writer’s block

The Wizard Of Oz - original movie poster 1939
The Wizard Of Oz – original movie poster 1939

Think The Wizard of Oz. The 1939 movie with Judy Garland as Dorothy.

Dorothy and Scarecrow and Tin Man are walking through a forest. It is creepy.  The light is dim. They start talking about what might be hiding. Lions. Tigers. Bears. Oh no! They manage to scare themselves silly by the end of the scene, even though there are no lions or tigers or bears. The Cowardly Lion, who they eventually meet, is nowhere near scary.

This is what I have been doing the last two months. Scaring myself silly. Imagining lions and tigers and bears. Blocking the writing on my book.

I’ve been doing other things instead of my book. Useful good things, I tell myself. Yes, true, they are. But it is odd how I do those useful good things first, plan to get to my book writing second, and somehow never get there.

I’m watching this happen. Two months of watching and not doing. I can’t seem to break the pattern. I’m not choosing to. What is stopping me?

Over my years of creating, I have run myself into blocks and scared myself a lot. I see what’s happening and I find my way through. Every time. Except now.

I could blame it on the fact that this is my first experience writing the second draft of a book. I don’t know what to expect, don’t yet know my process for this kind of creating, or how long it might take me. I do know this long at not-writing is too long.

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Tell me I’m an artist

misc.pics 128When I was eighteen, I tried to become an artist.

I loved school and I believed in school, so I got myself accepted to university and started my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. I thought courses and a diploma and those letters, BFA, after my name would make me an artist.

I thought being an artist came from outside. Like being knighted. I dub thee ‘Artist’. One of my art teachers would surely tell me, ‘’Cat, you are an artist.’’

All through that year, I hoped someone would see me, the artist me. I didn’t say it out loud, or whisper it. I never wrote it down on paper or the covers of my sketch books or a bathroom wall. Tell me I’m an artist.

I was so desperate for this, it must surely have been printed across my face. It must have leapt out of every piece of art I created (both the amazing and the dreadful) and every essay I wrote.

It didn’t happen. No one said these magic words.

I left the Fine Arts Department after that first year. I got my diploma in Business Administration instead, and went to work for the government.

Yes, go ahead and laugh.

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Buried Treasure

laidtoresteast.skullI’m in the library.  It’s cooler here than outside.  We had a heat wave last week.  It is done and gone, but cooler is still feeling better to me.

I am sitting by the windows, writing, a table for four all to myself.  Sketch book and loose leaf papers and BIC 4-colour pen and ipod spread out before me.  It is quiet at this end, away from the entrance and check-out desk and dvd section.  I’m deep in the 900’s stacks.  Biographies.  Katharine Hepburn looks out at me from a cover.  A namesake and one of my heroes, she is.

In the library I am no hero.  I am a pirate.  I’m here for treasure.

There is treasure everywhere in the library, so I’m always a very successful pirate on my voyages through this word and idea space.

Today I am searching for no particular treasure.  No.  Today I am on the lookout for buried treasure, unearthed by hands other than mine.

The book sticking out one inch beyond its neighbours on the shelf.  Someone thumbs through it.  No, not for me, they say, replace it carelessly, walk away.  I come by later and there it is, mine.  Just what I was looking for, although I did not know it until now.  I drop it into my sack.

And here is another.  Left lying on top of other books.  Like my first find, looked at, discarded.  Left for me to come along the shelves and recognize its possibility in my life at this moment.  A second piece of treasure into my sack.

I am a rich pirate today.  Double treasure to take home and play with.  Try out the words and ideas and story for their fit.  Ooo, I do like this first one.  It’s all me and beyond.  Hmmm.  This second one, not so much.  Doesn’t fit me and my life as comfortably, but there is an interesting idea and turn of phrase, the way the writer links her words that I write into my sketch book for thinking on later.

There is learning in both my treasures today.  The one that fits me well and sparkles brightly.  The other that does not, yet offers me a pebble for polishing and playing with, turning it in the light and finding its brightest face.

I love being a pirate in the library.  Gathering treasure unearthed by others gives me a different point of view.  I would never have gone looking for these books on my own.  They weren’t in my usual pattern of interests and thinking.  Yet here they are crossing my path and, because of that, worth a look.

I have long practice at this joyful plundering.  Sailing the library stacks and then turning for home, my sack full of treasure, my heart full of pleasure and anticipation, delight and surprise at what I have found today.

Postcard #4 – Start here

Where I Am Not
Where I Am Not

I have a new sticker for my laptop.  It reads ‘Get Lost. Write.’  The sticker is from Camp Nanowrimo.

Getting lost in my writing is a good thing.  Getting lost and scared before I write is not a good thing.

There is no map for writing.  The map is created as I move my head and heart and hands across the page and the keyboard.  I call myself Writer.  I could call myself Explorer.

I read other writers’ maps, and they give me clues to what I might find in my map.  The key word is ‘might’.  Their maps are not mine.  The map I create is my own, the trails and geography unique to me.

I have learned to start here, exactly where I am in my life in this moment.  I learned this from Julia Cameron’s and Natalie Goldberg’s maps.

I know here, a familiar place to step out from.  If I come to my day’s writing feeling lost and scared, forgetting how the words always do flow, I start here.  Where I am, what the weather is doing, how I am feeling, what I want to write today.  I let my writing be just what I am thinking, seeing, feeling, what is in front of me.  I do this as long as I need to.  And then my head and heart and hands slip from thinking about my writing to just writing.

The writing is not scary.  It’s the thinking that is scary, and it’s not real.  It’s not true.

What is true is the writing I have already done.  The ideas I have for writing not yet created.  The place I have made for myself in my life to write and love what I write.  The permission I have given myself.

I am a Writer, an Explorer.  I create my map as I go, and I always start here.

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Mentioned in this post:

Julie Cameron, ‘The Artist’s Way’ and more    http://juliacameronlive.com

Natalie Goldberg. ‘Writing Down the Bones’ and more    http://nataliegoldberg.com

Camp Nanowrimo     http://campnanowrimo.org

 

Postcard #1 – Permission

Counting Crows
Counting Crows

Raven, who came by five weeks ago to tell me to play, has come to Camp Nanowrimo with me.  He is whispering in my ear right now.  Say yes, he says and dips his head up and down, Give yourself permission.

I have been writing steadily since before last summer.  First my book draft, then the blog, now the book revision and blog at the same time.  I am writing.  I am a Writer.  Really, I have been writing stories since Grade Three.  But apparently I have not actually given myself permission to be a Writer.

I didn’t know that.  I thought if I was doing this, permission was implied.  Not, according to Raven.

My family and friends all know what I am doing and creating.  I have their steady support and interest.

Not that I asked for it or needed to ask for it, but I have full permission from the Universe, from Source.  I experience it every day in the gifts that come my way.  Time, resources, inspiration, support, response to what I create.

So I have permission from all except myself.

I love to write, draw, create.  It is joy and play to me.  It is my work.

Some old pattern in me thinks that joy and play cannot mix with work.  Work has to be serious.  Work has to be hard.  Work is not to be enjoyed.

Well, I say crap to that.  I am making a different choice and creating a new pattern for myself.

I choose that my writing is my work.  I choose that my work is play.  I choose to keep writing and playing with love and joy and passion.  I give myself full permission to write, to play with my writing, to love my writing, to enjoy my writing.

This is my place in the world, at my work table in my studio.  Paper, pens, laptop.  Head, heart, words.  The view out my window.  This is permission.  I am a Writer.

I have all I need.

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Mentioned in this post:

Camp Nanowrimo    http://campnanowrimo.org    campnanowrimo