Creative Process, Progress

A Picture of One of My Bookshelves

I’ve been thinking a lot today about what I should write. I usually just start writing and see where it goes. But I’ve been realizing more and more that the sort of “freewriting” with which I produced many of the previous posts on my blog is not going to be sustainable long term. I have found myself repeating myself and writing posts that seem to just be a conglomeration of random ideas that don’t really fit together.

Even now, I am struggling, because I would really like to make my posts more interesting. The problem with that is that part of the whole point of my blog and of this wellness quest is honesty. I don’t want to embellish and fictionalize my life to make it more interesting for you. But writing boring and useless fluff is not an option for me.

I think that what I am going to have to do is plan my posts ahead of time, something which I (as you can see by my train of thought) have not done for this post. So for tonight, I think I’ll just give you a window into my creative process today.

You see, although this blog is my primary writing project at the moment, it is not the single, solitary outlet for my creative energy. I think I have spent 50+ hours on this blog in the past six weeks. But I have also spent somewhere around 10 hours working on a creative project which I actually started back during my sophomore year of college.

It began as a long poem (as in 20+ pages) with three “parts”. I had the dialogue, which was in rhyming iambic tetrameter (eight syllables to each line). Here is a sample:

“Imagine spending eternity here

Can you feel the oppression of the air?

If even air it can be called

Smelling more of sulfur than of stars”

I also have the narration, which is in verse, and roughly Iambic, but has no set meter and no set rhyme. Finally, I also have the “Meta-Narrative”. Now, I don’t want to get too deep explaining this concept, but what meta-narrative means in this context is a story or text that refers to itself. So that is like me writing right now about the way I am typing this post. Saying that I am watching my fingers blur across the keyboard. It can also be when a character in a story starts acting as if he knows he is a character in a story.

Example: “Kevin thought for a minute and then decided he was not going to drive his car off the cliff. Why? Because he realized that the people reading this story would think it absurd for him, as the main character, to die in the first sentence of the story.”

See how that works? Anytime the narrative or text becomes overtly (or even at times covertly) self-referential, you could classify it as “meta-narrative” or “meta-textual” (and no, that’s not “metro-sexual”).

Here’s a sample of the meta-narrative:

“Conversing with metapoetics, one must

Keep his wristwatch handy, or hours will slip

Under rugs and doormats to be found by the next one

To pick up the carpet and bang out the dust.”

 

So it was a dramatic narrative poem with three parts, and when I wrote it in college I was intending it to be read and performed as if it were a play. Of course, I never really finished it, and the older I got and the better I became at writing, the more I realized that what I had written was probably not “of publishable merit”, and that trying to make it something performable was just not realistic.

However, I really liked the storyline, and I have always wanted to go back to it and re-write it in a straight up narrative form. So that’s what I began doing a month ago. Now, I have had to make up a whole lot of things for this new version. The three main “characters” in the original version had no names. They were loosely titled “man”, “phantom”, and “fog”. Everything was pretty conceptual. I have had to really bring it down to earth and find a setting for it as well as finding a whole host of new characters to fit into the plot.

The reason this creative project was on my mind today was that I was working on an outline, planning out the entire plot, today. And I realized that in the past I have never really been able to plan ahead for what I am writing. It has always just seemed easier to just write and see what happens. Unfortunately, although that approach works well for poetry and even for short fiction, for a novel, it is impossible to just write and hope you figure things out. Frankly, every serious attempt I have made at novel writing has been an utter failure until now, in part because I did not take the time to try and plan things out.

So today I began what I hope will be the outline of my first novel, and I am looking forward to writing it. The original poetic version of this project was, as I said, lofty, conceptual, intellectual, and very, very pretentious. It also didn’t have much to do with my actual experience. This new, narrative version will really be much more of an embodiment of myself.

Just like with this blog, I am beginning to understand that in order to write something that other people want to read, I need to really put something of me into it. If I don’t, then what I write is flat, and seems contrived. But when I really write myself onto the page, when I am honest, things turn out much better.

So, I am saying this now because I know if I say it here, to you, on my blog, I can’t get out of it: By the end of Fall (November) of this year (2012), I will have at least a rough draft of this novel written, and ready for editing.

Whew. That’s a bold statement, I know. But so many times I have begun projects only to drop them because I did not commit myself. It’s a little bit like going off a jump on your skis or snowboard: if you hesitate, you’re going to end up losing momentum and most likely missing your landing. If you fully commit, you’ll fly far, fast, and land smoothly. And that is my hope for both this project and for my life.

Send me emails or comments of Facebook me if you are interested in reading chapters and sections for me as I finish them. I think it could be fun to get your input.

Thanks for reading, and peace to you,

-Nathan

Oh and by the way – I just read the Wikipedia article on meta-narrative and they explained it in a somewhat easier to understand way: a meta-narrative is a story about another story. Or, as I explained it, a story or text that refers to itself.

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2 responses to “Creative Process, Progress

  1. How exciting! I applaud your bold commitment and putting yourself, and a timeline out there! I look forward to reading the chapters as you write them…..

  2. Pingback: Paulina Plots | Writing Sluts

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