Inspire Me, Watson

by Laura, aka The Dragon

Each Wednesday, the Midnight Types will share a bit of inspiration. I am humbled and delighted to be the first to light the fires of imagination beneath our collective derrieres. Sometimes, a little well placed heat is just the thing to ease you into something new. A beginning.

I’ve been thinking a lot about beginnings lately. They are all at once scary, invigorating, uncertain, and exciting. Every new thing brings equal measures of joy and fear. There’s no way to know what each beginning holds in store for us. Just committing ourselves to something new is huge, but without that first overwhelming step, we’d never get anywhere.

Midnight is itself a beginning. The clock ticks from one second to the next, and magically it’s a new day. It gives us a chance to start fresh every twenty-four hours. So what if I didn’t get everything done yesterday? I have today, and I won’t let it pass without significance.

The Midnight Type is a huge new beginning for me, personally. This amazing group of people, of writers, of talented and creepy and entertaining characters, has invited me to contribute to this effort. I’m honored and baffled, but I’m loving every minute of it. So here goes, my attempt at inspiration, whether you are starting your first writing project, about to query for the first (or second, or third) time, or releasing your first published work into the world. It all begins at the beginning.

I’ve been writing for several years. Writing is not new to me, yet I’m still constantly confronted with beginnings. Every day I am challenged to begin again. Some days are more challenging than others. Here are a few thoughts that keep me going when I start to despair that I’ll ever reach my goal. Sometimes I need a swift kick in my scaly, stubbornly dragon-like pants.

At the start of a new project (which is where I am right now), I begin with research. I tend to get bogged down a little here. I possess a possibly unhealthy love of information, if the number of tabs I have open in Chrome at the moment is any indicator. I swear, my browser has only crashed once this week under the weight of it all. Research (or outlining, or making notes, or whatever holds you back from actually sitting down and putting words on the page) is more like the stretching you do before running. It’s good, it’s healthy, but if you never stand up and run, you’ll never get anywhere. There will be time for more research as the story grows. Plots grow and change in strange ways as they work themselves out in ink or pixels. I’ve had mountains of research go unused (WASTED! says my twisted mind) when a story took a hard left turn in chapter three. I jogged right off the edge of the map, and into Officially Uncharted Territory. HERE BE DRAGONS! AND NEW BEGINNINGS! The moral of this story for me is: STOP IT ALREADY AND WRITE. *pants KICKED*

Editing is another stumbling block I’d prefer to think of as a new beginning. Sure, the story is all there, but looking at it from a new perspective–as a whole instead of as a series of scenes and characters and ideas–gives me a chance to start over. Like an artist looking at a big lump of plaster, or at a cauldron of molten metal, or whatever (I am so not aware of how artists do the art), editing is where the molding really begins. I’ve hacked thousands of words from stories, only to replace them with thousands of different words. Every time I take another pass, the story becomes tighter, the overall picture clearer, just as the artist’s sculpture is more refined each time they see it from a different angle.

Once you’ve edited and polished, run your story past your trusted writer friends, critique partners, and edited and polished again (and then again), it’s time for one of the most terrifying beginnings I’ve faced as a writer: querying. I’ve spent weeks crafting query letters, researching agents, and consuming enough ice cream to freeze my nerves up enough to hit send on a query email. This is the first new beginning for a writer that’s almost completely out of our control. Up to this point, it’s been up to us as individuals to ooze our stories out into something pleasing to ourselves, but then BLAMMO! It’s time to leave our dank and cozy writing caves and stretch our wings in the dazzling light of day. Luckily for me, dragons have beautiful glittering scales (not to mention threatening talons and impressive fangs). The manuscripts I send out are hopefully just as glittery after all that polishing.

There are so many other beginnings for a writer, but these are the big ones for me. No matter where you are, from thinking about your first story idea to gearing up for your first book release, it can be suffocating. Like my recurring nightmare of drowning in fire extinguisher foam, but let’s not speak of that. For me, the easiest way to keep going is to see every step as a fresh start. Every day when I sit down to write, I see a new beginning, a new pile of kindling to set ablaze.

What are your thoughts on beginnings? How do you kick your metaphorical pants into gear? Or your literal pants? I mean, maybe you’re some sort of robot with a transmission in your pants. That would actually be awesome. Or terrifying. Either way, I’d like to know about it.

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