Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Writing is Hard: Get your dress dirty

Photo by Michelle Kennedy.

The only reason you need to follow Ben Caldwell's blog is the art he puts up there, but lately he's been doing some great process posts too. A lot of them are about design and visual storytelling, but last week he talked about some things that apply to writing too. In discussing creative block, he said:
start drawing/writing whatever is giving you trouble, without trying to make it good. even if you throw away everything you just did, at least you'll have done SOMETHING, and at least clarified certain things you DON'T want to have. it's always easier to fix something that exists, than worry about something that doesn't. also, no one ever accomplished something by not doing it.

if you're working on a script or drawing and unsure how to get past a certain point, then save a copy of whatever you're doing, then go ahead and finish it however the hell you want. follow your ideas through to their logical conclusion, because this can help you see if perhaps you were asking yourself the wrong questions in the first place -- which is the best way to get the wrong answers.
Writer Angela Booth describes this as "making mud."
Writing is creative work, not typing. [...] I look on my first drafts of all writing as making mud -- making a mess. You've got to get some words written so you know what you're thinking about a topic, and you can't know until you write it.
I love that analogy and it's helped me a lot with Kill All Monsters. I'm not as obsessed about turning in a perfect draft to James (my editor), because I know that it's just the material that I'm building the actual story with. I also love what Ben adds to that point: that the process of creating mud and playing in it is also educational. It's the creative equivalent of Edison's famous statement about knowing a thousand ways not to build a lightbulb.

Basically, it's about fearlessness. It's a cheap kind of fearlessness, because it doesn't even require showing your practice stuff to anyone else, but it's still important. Every creator either admits to struggling with doubts about his or her work, or is a big fat liar. So anything that helps deal with that fear - however small - is valuable.

1 comment:

Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

This was just the thing I needed to read today. I am feeling creatively drained and needed some fresh motivation.


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