[2018 update: This book still isn’t out, and it’s unlikely to be out anytime soon. I’m okay with that. But the post about Craft is still relevant, and speaks honestly about I felt in June 2017. Leaving it up in case it helps another artist who is drowning in rules and self-imposed limitations/expectations.]
As many of you know, I’ve been working on a third book for a trilogy I started a few years ago. My original intent was to have it out by Christmas 2016. Then I pushed back to Valentine’s Day 2017. Now it’s June, and I’m hoping to have it out by Christmas 2017. Which is a whole six months from now, and seems the slightest bit doable.
Here’s the problem. I still haven’t finished my manuscript. Oh, I’ve looked at it, read through a couple bits and pieces, submitted what I have for critique and help… and here’s where I stand on it right now.
I say to my manuscript, “I’m sorry. I am sorry I tried to edit you before you were finished. I’m sorry you were subjected to the ugliness of people (and me) telling you you aren’t good enough, smart enough, and you need to change everything about yourself to fit in. I am sorry I did that to you. Now I beg you to forgive me, to take me on again as your writer and friend, and let me show your story to the world.”
To Craft, I say, “Bite me. I successfully brought two books into the world before I really knew you, and all you have done since then is stifle me and my creativity. Your rules were made to be broken, your controlling ways meant to be flaunted. I don’t need you in my life right now. Wynnie and I were fine without you, and you have only torn us apart. I’m not listening to you and your toxic voice anymore. Go away.”
Now, I know that might seem to harsh to some of you. Anathema to others. But hear me out. There’s a method to my madness. I’m a special kind of writer. (and by special I mean crazy. 🙂 ) I have always simply written down what the characters show me, followed where the muse leads, discovered the story rather than plan it. We’re called in the writing world Pantsers. This is not to say I have no plotting, but for me, that plotting goes on in a different plane. Subconsciously, you might say. I write everything down and most of it is good, a lot of it is use-able, some of it is trash. Okay, maybe a lot of it is trash, but I have people to help me transform the trash into treasure. It’s like shabby chic.
I have, in the name of ‘learning my Craft’ (ugh … that uppercase C … but it’s for snarky emphasis when you read it–take it as such) subverted my muse. Killed my characters, destroyed my story. They have gone into hiding. (I rather imagine them all sitting around a table in a coffee shop waiting, and not speaking well of me while they bide.) Good for them. Better to go into hiding than for me to subject them to cookie-cutter pains. To make them into who they “should be” for a perfectly easy story. A perfectly planned and ordered story, which in my hands would be boring and un-freaking-read-able. Because that’s what I have tried to do…
Not intentionally, of course! Who would do that?! (probably lots of people, but that’s another post) But by not allowing them to live their messy lives, not relishing every crazy or mundane or confusing moment with them, by not letting them tell their story in their own way, in their own time, I am crushing them. OH, how awful I have been! I’m sorry, my friends!
So I’m publicly pledging (for that’s the best way for me to not back out on something) to ditch Craft. To write messy and ugly and brilliantly. To let the characters and my muse be who they are, without me telling them they’re going about the business of creating this book all wrong.
My muse likes quiet. She likes solitary spaces with no one around. She likes finger-paints and mud pies and dandelions. She likes day-dreaming and gazing endlessly into space. She likes noticing people and things and staring too long at whatever catches her fancy.
She does not like being told what to do–especially when the end message is Change, you’re not doing it right. Who is to say what is right for her? She is to say. She is the genius. I’m only along for the ride.
Before you get all up-in-arms about “knowing your craft” and “that’s why there are so many crappy books–don’t tell people craft doesn’t matter” et cetera, yeah, I know. I know! And that’s why I hire an editor when the manuscript is finished. My point is, for me, that the rules and regulations are ingrained in me. I already know ‘how to write’. And I also know that I break many of the rules as I go along. I don’t do it on purpose, but I do it in service to the story. And the story is always paramount. I have been trying so hard for the past year to impose rules on top of the rules, and not break these silly dumb rules, that I stopped writing out of fear, paralysis, and just plain rebellion. I can’t do that any more. I can’t. I won’t. So–no more reading about how to write; no more talking about it. I’m just going to do it. And to those who try to say, “but, [Craft]!” … yeah, Bite me.
I will probably regret this post–but I’m publishing it anyway, sans tags and categories to hurry it along. It’s about time I wrote something honest anyway. And this is how I feel this morning.