Day 109. Telling Stories

I just can’t let “W” go by, without talking about how much I love writing. I have, ever since I was in grade school. English was my best subject, all the way through, from my very first class to the day I graduated. Both literature and composition. I have been telling stories my whole life.

So how lucky am I that I not only get to do what I love, but I also get paid for it.

When I write, I lose track of time. It could be ten in the morning. It could be ten at night. Sometimes I don’t even stop to eat. I am that engrossed in what I’m doing. I’m unaware of what anyone else is doing. Or saying. Or even if they’re talking to me. It’s like I’m in a trance. A world of my own. I find it very peaceful. Calm. It’s almost like a meditation. I don’t know how else to explain it.

Now to be completely honest, sometimes I don’t look forward to getting started. Some days I’m just not in the mood. And so I might procrastinate a little. But I have never missed a deadline, so I put if off for only so long. And I’m the same way with my blog. I know I have to publish a new post every day, and there is no way I am going to miss one.

Because being a good writer, a successful writer, is as much about discipline, as it is about talent. I take the writing I do for

myself as seriously as the writing I do for clients. So again, I put it off for only so long.

And what happens next is always the same. The minute I’m a couple of sentences in, I’m totally involved in whatever it is that I’m writing. Loving it. Caught up in the story. And the fact that, just a short while earlier I may have been wishing I could take the day off, is already long forgotten. Like it never happened.

Every writer has a different way of working. I don’t know, when I begin, where the story will take me. I don’t write an outline first. I have a topic, or an idea. I’ve written some of the story in my head. Almost like a rehearsal. But once I’m in front of my computer, anything can happen. I wouldn’t want it any other way, actually, because it’s way more fun and much more interesting for me. Like a little adventure.

It’s always worked out, so I don’t question it. Or angst over it. It’s the way I work. At least as far as my blogs and my new business initiatives go.

With my book, I do have a chapter by chapter outline I follow, which is very helpful. It keeps me on track. So I know what all the chapters are going to be (which puts everything in a logical order). Which can change, by the way; and has, in fact. And I also know what subject matter I want to cover in each chapter. But that’s it. How the story unfolds, happens while I’m writing it. No pre-conceived ideas.

Client work is a bit different. There are very clear business objectives, strategies and goals that must be met. There are brands that must be respected. So copywriters aren’t just let loose. We get written briefs that guide us in the right direction. Which, contrary to what you might think, I find very liberating. There is a lot of freedom in knowing what the boundaries are and how far you can, and cannot, go.

But still, even with a formal brief, I still don’t know how it will all unfold until I’m staring at the screen and I type that first sentence.

There are writers who write a detailed outline first. Like a roadmap or a script. I can’t do that. Well, maybe I could. But I don’t want to. It kills the surprise for me and takes all the fun out of it. Makes it too mechanical.

The spontaneity is what I crave. And I also love the ‘conversation’ I’m having with the people who will be reading my stories. And the conversations I create between the characters I’m writing about. I love engaging people. Catching them by surprise. Capturing their imaginations. Grabbing their attention. Inspiring them. Making them laugh. Making them cry. Scaring them. Exciting them. Enlightening them. Moving them. Hopefully making it easy for them to find themselves in the story.

At least I hope that’s what I do.

Finding just the right words to capture the spirit of what I’m trying to say, is another of my favourite writer jobs’. Which is probably why the dictionary and the thesaurus never leave my side. I do use online ones as well, but I love having the books beside me. Thumbing through them gives me great pleasure. And so does editing and polishing my work. I won’t go into detail about it, because I’ve written a post on that very subject already.

Then, once I’m finally satisfied, there is one, last ritual I must perform. I have to read the work out loud. I have to hear it. Sometimes, I read it three or four times. And you know what? Nine times out of ten, after I’ve heard it, I go back and change it again. And maybe again, after I listen to myself read it one more time.

What can I say? It works for me.

11 thoughts on “Day 109. Telling Stories

  1. Gosh I read my stuff COUNTESS times afterward. And revise and revise. I enjoyed this and learned a lot and actually wrote something a while back on writing that parallels part of what you write here:

    “Hey, have you played slots? You know, like in Vegas? I don’t go much for that whole casino scene really, but I do love my slot machines! I understand why people become gamblers, I mean hard-core gambling addicts. When I play slots I sit there indefinitely and don’t even get up to go to the bathroom. I forget to eat. I don’t know what time it is or how much time has elapsed. You could scream in my ear and I won’t hear you. A bomb could go off next to me and I’d still pull that lever. Get it? Of course Vegas is great cause they bring you drinks without even asking! Playing slots is something like my particular life as a writer, minus the drinks (unfortunately). I need the restroom as we speak”

    It’s funny how important it is to know what makes us tick and get going and be productive. I think you’ve captured it very well and obviously are very aware of how to tap into your creativity.

    • Thank you! Glad to hear it’s not just me reading out loud. Sometimes when I do it, I feel more than a bit nuts. When I have to present work or if I’m a speaker at a seminar or something, I rehearse out loud as well. Then I really feel crazy.

      Love the ‘slots’ story. It made me laugh because I have watched people. That’s exactly what they do. The only time they move is when the machine goes ‘cold’ and they hunt for a hot one.
      You nailed it.

      But that’s what writing is all about. Observing others, experiencing ourselves and using all that to weave tales. To create characters who are composites of everyone we’ve ever watched or known. Including ourselves.

      I find writing a great way to get to know and understand myself.

  2. The frustration I face is that sometimes I really want to write something but I just can’t think of the right ideas/words to string together. And yes, I know a few people who have to have scaffolds/outlines/bullet points of what they want to write – doesn’t work for me! It has to just come naturally as I’m tryping the words and rereading what I have. I guess that makes it more fun/spontaneous but also risky – higher chances of a mental block!

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