I always like to have a plan; if I’ve figured out where I want to go, I want to plot out each step of the path before I set out. What I’m slowly learning, though, is that this doesn’t allow for flexibility in myself, or responsiveness to surprises that the world might hand me. (I tend to assume that surprises the world hands me are always going to be terrible — I’m working on shifting that assumption.) I’m also learning that pretty great things can happen when I move generally toward things that I want, even if I don’t have a clear plan forward, even if the landscape starts shifting as I move.
For example: a couple of years ago I took advantage of a NaNoWriMo promotion to sign up for Novlr, a writing platform, and through that I learned about Tim Clare’s Couch to 80k Writing Boot Camp, a free podcast-based writing course. And that, for the last 4 weeks, has been knocking down so many of the blockades that have gone up around my creative, fiction-generating brain over the years. When I was a kid and a teenager, I was constantly having story ideas, constantly drawing up characters and writing scenes and plotting out novels, and I had begun to fear that that was just lost to me in adulthood. I’m so, so happy to discover that it’s not.
I’m not going to post many of the excerpts I generate through this, and in fact might not do any at all besides this one. They’re all done in ten minutes, and so there’s no polishing and I don’t want “someone else might read this” to get in the way of my being able to put down whatever terrible words come out. But this one was a fun exercise — this week we are writing the same scene, a memory, with different stylistic constraints. See if you can tell what the rule is for this:
The wind was strong, and it pushed the waves high and rough. Mom was with the kids, so Dan and I could get out to play and swim in the sea. We ran down the wood planks to the shore, and stood and watched in awe at the fierce waves and loud wind. Grey sand, grey sky, and slate grey sea spread out in front of us.
We ran down the beach and plunged in the surf. The wind was so cold that the sea felt warm. Up, the waves rose, us with them, high and low, some from the north and some from the south, crossed swells on all sides. The wind tore at my hair. We could have been killed, if a wave too strong had pulled us down, or out to sea, but we swum strong and laughed and rode the waves.
Anyway, it’s been really fun. And this weekend I woke up with an idea that I’m so excited about, and dying to start working on. I promised myself a full first draft of something by the end of calendar year 2018, and I think this is gonna be it.