Monday, 25 July 2011

A Tale of Two Writers

Once upon a time, there were two aspiring writers. The first, named Susan, wanted to write a novel and sat at her desk each day, between the hours of 8am and noon, dutifully writing her set target of 1500 words.

She wasn’t sure what her subject was yet, let alone the characters or plot, but some creative writing teacher told her that if she merely continued to put down words on the page consistently, over the weeks and months these narrative necessities would magically emerge, like a time-lapsed image of a Polaroid.

The second aspiring writer, Bruce, also wanted to write a novel. He had a few ideas about the characters involved, a vague notion of the story's turning points but wasn't sure of which point-of-view to choose, or how the drama might resolve itself.

He realised intuitively that novels aren't linear but cellular, tiny patterns of interconnnectedness that, when fully grown, form their own, unique mosaics.

Bruce didn't mind the discipline of hard work but didn't feel ready to embark on a first draft with his ideas in such an embryonic state. So, instead of writing lots and lots of words every day, trying to summon characters, motives and basic plot, Bruce kept a notebook for about a year but he didn't write in it religiously. But whenever he had a "eureka" moment - it could be on a bus, standing in line at the supermarket, or sitting on the loo - he'd scribble it down.

He didn't just jot down plot ideas or character traits; sometimes he'd draw diagrams of imaginary country towns, or the floor plan of his protagonist's house, or the genealogy of his fictional family.

Sometimes, when reading the newspaper, an item would pop out that would either inspire his subject matter or even resolve a narrative problem that had long been teasing him.

He pasted them into his notebook in no particular order, along with pictures and photographs.

Whenever he overheard something witty or intelligent he always made a note of it, in the same book, before time erased it forever. Bruce had learned the art of "writing without writing", a process that allows the imagination to wander freely; to make unconscious connections between narrative possibilities without the pressure of producing a consistent tone, a tight prose style, beautiful sentences and starting metaphors.

When it came to writing his novel, Bruce had prepared himself so well that he wrote it in six months and only had to revise it once.

Bruce was published and lived happily ever after.

Susan, however, is still at her computer, checking her word count and watching the clock!

"Cats are dangerous companions for writers because cat watching is a near-perfect method of writing avoidance"
~~ Dan Greenburg



Full moon 14 July 2011 taken at the front of my house in Sydney.

29 comments:

Dina said...

Is this a true story?

Mike Smith said...

You should write a book yourself, Peggy - you're a wonderful storyteller!

miruspeg said...

Dina - I am sure it is a true story, as these two people probably do exist somewhere in the Universe.
They actually are a combination of me in my endeavours to enhance my writing skills.

Mike - I am pleased you enjoy my stories. It warms my heart. :D) Writing a book isn't a priority at the moment, as there are so many other things I want to achieve. xxxxx

lisleman said...

I agree that the creative process is not linear or something with set steps. I've discovered that writing and creating ideas for my blog while not anything like a full story is fun and rewarding mentally.
I'm thinking you did not intend this but who knows? - only you - Bruce turned into Dick?

miruspeg said...

Congratulations Lisleman for spotting the name changes. After Dina and Mike commented I thought I would change the names but leave different names at the beginning and see if anyone spotted it.
Thanks for adding your comments. Blogging, I feel, definitely has a place in the writing sphere and can be very rewarding.

Anonymous said...

I like the 'Bruce Way' of writing -the trouble is I start too many notebooks and then lose them! I have several lost and found again jottings -but no book!CJ

miruspeg said...

Hey Cazjane!
"Bruce's Way" is a no pressure way of writing and can be lots of fun, like amateur photography.
I am enjoying blogging and will probably never write a book but I am enjoying the journey.
Your photography is taking you on a wonderful journey too. :-)

Cinderella said...

Good Thursday morning to you Miruspeg! I found you through Lilly's site:)

Yes, inspiration makes for success.
I liked your story using the two different writers as examples.

Will be back to visit again:)

Cinderella
http://www.cinderella11pm.com

miruspeg said...

Hello my long lost friend!!
How wonderful that you have resurfaced and reinvented yourself AGAIN.
You and Madonna are masters of reinvention.
So happy that Flopsy is still tagging along for the ride.
Big heart hugs
Peggy xxxx

Marja said...

What a wonderfull inspiring idea about the notebook my friend. You should put on your bucket list. Just checked and saw you are going to publish a blogging book. How exciting my friend. let me know when its ready

miruspeg said...

Marja - I like the notebook idea too, I think it is about time I started one!
My blog book has been put on the back burner for time being but I will let you know when I publish it.

Marit said...

I love the story Peg... thinking about it, I would be a mixture of Susan and Bruce...

miruspeg said...

Marit I am over at YOUR blog right now, how about that for synchronicity!!!
I am pleased you enjoyed the story and I agree a combination of the two writers would cover just about everything a budding writer requires to write a book.

Cinderella11pm said...

Good Tuesday morning to you dear Miruspeg!

Busted! Ha-ha, you figured it out so fast:)

It's good to be visiting you again - I love the energy on your site!
Happy Day, Happy Week and Happy Month to you:)

miruspeg said...

It wasn't too difficult to figure out your identity Cinderella! Your new blog is fabulous, a wonderful combination of all your incarnations.

Keep shining and smiling and giving and sharing, it is a great way to live life. :D)

Chapter Forty said...

I love the notebook technique, mine get pinched by little fingers who then fill the pages with scribbles (Little Miss) or detailed designs (B)

Put together those creative random thoughts with that dogged discipline and you are onto a winner.

miruspeg said...

Hello CF!
My friend Talie (Joseph and Charlie's mother) has the same problem with her notebook, the boys love writing and drawing in it if it is left lying around. She writes all their funny antics and sayings in the book but you have a blog that follows your children's journey which will be priceless in years to come.

I use my blog to share my feelings and thoughts and to get inspiration from fellow bloggers. Blogging has helped me to focus on not only my creative side but spiritual one as well.

Can-Can said...

I once read about a woman who got up every day in the wee hours of the morning before her children woke up and aimed to write a page a day figuring that she'd have a novel at the end of a year. As a writer, who used to rely on inspiration to get it done (i.e., Bruce) I now pursue perspiration instead of just inspiration. What I find is that if I start writing something - inspiration will come.
Thanks for this post.

miruspeg said...

Hi Candelaria
It is interesting that you have changed the way you now write - (persiration instead of just inspiration). I am pleased it works for you, as putting in the "hard yards" can become tedious and overwhelming to some writers.

You have found a winning formula, as your published books prove and you are evolving as well, well done my friend!

Christine said...

Interesting story Peggy, lessons here for sure and some of us maybe aren't cut out for writing!

Thanks for stopping by today.

miruspeg said...

Hi Christine
I totally agree that writing books for publication is not every one's cup of tea or coffee for that matter!

I write for pleasure, like I walk for pleasure and travel for pleasure. No stress involved and it fulfill my creative energies.

Glad to hear you surgery went so well my friend. xxxxxxxx

Stoneweaver said...

A ha ha ha!!!!!!! Oh Peggy - only you could justify "writing without writing" so well. I knew there was a reason why I did it.

But I am doubtful about the truth of this part:

"When it came to writing his novel, Bruce had prepared himself so well that he wrote it in six months and only had to revise it once."

!!!!

miruspeg said...

Stoneweaver glad you liked my "writing without writing" tale!
You know you could live happily ever after as a published novel writer.

You have all the skills my friend and all the ideas, you just need the time to put all your notes together.
2012 will be an excellent year for writing your novel/novels.

"Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.” ~~ E. L. Doctorow

Roban said...

Love, love, love this story! I would rather be the notebook noter and sketcher. I love the idea of gathering nuggets and gems for later use.

miruspeg said...

I'm with you Roban, gathering nuggets is way more fun than dutifully writing each day.
They always say its the journey not the destination that matters so maybe we could just appreciate and enjoy the insights that writing offers us and enjoy the ride.

Lovely to read a comment from you dear friend. I guess the summer holidays are now over and school is back. xxxxxx

Evil Shannanigans said...

I love this Peggy and I am going to use the message this November during NaNoWriMo. I was Susan for so long, but Bruce's way strikes me as what I should have been doing all along. I will let you know how that works.

miruspeg said...

Hi Shannon thanks for stopping by and commenting on several posts, it is always lovely to read your words.

Hope you have fun with your NaNoWriMo this November and trying a different technique should be interesting.

Also all the best with setting up your new foundation, I am so proud of you my dear friend!

Lilly said...

What a great story - I have kept notebooks and creative boards for years. I like it a lot but not sure I havent made a full time job from just doing that alone. A friend of mine was an Executive Chef. He had to give up work for a while and recover from heart surgery. In 3 months he wrote a book which sold for a million pounds. I still have his draft on my computer. He is such a creative talent in every possible way. I think the secret is not to want anything so badly.

miruspeg said...

You are very wise Lilly! The secret is definitely not wanting anything so badly that it clouds your judgement.
I am very happy at the moment "writing without writing". I love the freedom a blog (which is my notebook)sharing my words and photos with whoever care to read and look at them.

YOU on the otherhand have at least 10 books waiting to be written and published!!!