Is learning copying?

As I go along in the writing process I do what I usually do when I want to learn something–I set out to read everything I can on the topic. I read about writing. How to plot, how to go with it and not plot, structure, grammar, character development, etc. I enjoy reading about the experience and process of other writers and I enjoy reading good works by others. I’ve also read about grammar, although, it doesn’t show from my blogging.  I’m ok with that. My blog is my conversation with myself and flows as it comes to me.

My way of learning is to see what is out there, try some out, and gain some experience. Knowing multiple ways of how something can be done helps me to build a base of knowledge and I believe that that, in turn, gives me freedom in the end. It gives me more ideas to pull from. I will be reading something and think, “Oh, that will never work for me! But this one over here, totally my way of doing things.” So I try it. Then later, after I’ve gone for a while I realize, “Wait. That thing back there that I wrote off? Maybe there is something to it,” and I incorporate a little bit of that. I find my own style from what I’ve learned from others.

I consider this way of initial learning to be my survey, 101 classes. I don’t have to sit through a semester of writing exercises taught by one person with a set way of doing things. I can blow through many methods, and take what I need, not having to spend time hashing out something I’m not interested in. I’m not saying that there isn’t value in learning from others who have different ways that what I think I don’t want. But this way, I’m not stuck in time and commitment when I don’t want to be. I can always go back to those other methods to explore. I know I can learn anything I want to, on my own.

I have moments when I think that this is copying, or not being original, and have always been reluctant to put it out there, to the extent that I don’t put all of the writing books I’ve read on my goodreads account. I mean, what kind of creative person scours other peoples techniques? A true creative just sits down and lets it flow, and it’s genius when they’re done, with no help from anyone else, right? They’re naturals at it if they’re really an artist.

Then I tell myself, that is ridiculous. Everyone has to learn somehow. Great if you’re one of those that just gets it and does it. We often think, when a new sensation hits the big time (in anything) that it’s magic. They somehow just have the gift, and while that may happen, I believe that behind that breakout novel, or incredible artistry, there is still years of work behind it. Somehow they learned it. Maybe they took classes, maybe they’ve studied others, but the bottom line is, they’ve worked hard. They didn’t just sit down one day and think, I’m going to write a masterpiece and boom, here it is.

So, I’m outing myself. I study others. When I read a book and a great sentence or paragraph grabs me I think, “I want to do that!” I don’t copy it, but I study it. When a plot takes a twist I think, “YES! I want to get the reader like that too!” I seek out advice and soak up everything I can find. I file it all away. I don’t sit down and go line by line trying to emulate a person, or their style, but I take it in and try to remember what it is that I, personally, like. I let it percolate in my mind so that by the time it’s my turn, it’s jumbled enough that it doesn’t come out the same.

The Flow

I have been chugging along like the Little Engine that Could on the new book. Part of my practice is to write Morning Pages. They’re supposed to be longhand but, being me, I don’t follow instruction and type them. I can’t get my thoughts out fast enough and my hand cramps when I write longhand so, I’ve modified my technique. I’ve done enough automatic writing in my life that I know this way is working just as well for me.

Sometimes it’s just whining about feeling stuck, sometimes it’s a rambling of what I need to get done, and other times I start to work out ideas that I woke up with about the book. If I feel the flow going towards writing something that fits better elsewhere I’ll either come here to put it down or go right to my Scrivener program (my writing software of choice) and open a “to do” file and jot down what is coming to me so I don’t forget. Maybe I’ll even dive in and actually write the paragraph or scene.

Whatever it is that comes out on my Morning Pages, I know that it’s clearing my head and getting me going. I used to do these years ago and oftentimes did them in the evenings before bed. It doesn’t quite serve the same purpose of clearing my head to face my day but it was beneficial that way too.

One of the things that Julia Cameron talks about in her book Right to Write is, in your morning pages, putting out there to the universe what you want, and it happens. I realize that sounds all new agey woo woo but, I’m a new agey woo woo kinda gal and, it works.

Recently I’ve been putting out there that I want to be in the flow. For the words to come through me easily, to produce a story that engages the reader. I’ve asked for it to come with ease, for me to enjoy the process, and for it to come out well-written the first time. That is, not a usual first draft dump that needs lots of reworking and rewriting. I realize that that will need to be done, but my first manuscript overwhelms me when I go back to look at it on the page, so I’m trying this. Trying to find my personal groove and method for writing.

Asking the universe plants the seed in your subconscious. If you can see yourself doing what you are asking for it plants it even more deeply, since our brains imprint images.

Last night I woke up dreaming about my story and characters. A few lines I had written came to mind, and I saw where I could provide more impact by using different words. I saw the next two scenes that I want to write and saw the characters acting them out. The words formed in my mind of how to translate it to the page. I laid there and thought, I should be writing this down because I always forget these dream state ideas! But I didn’t. I’m happy that I remember them this morning. Something about watching them play out, like a movie in my head, made them stick.

I’ve also been working on my time issues. I have always felt that I never have enough time. Pretty absolute statements in that one little sentence. Always and never, and neither of those are ever true so I knew I had some things to work through. I’ve been working on changing my perception that I need big chunks of time to get into the flow, and if I don’t have them then why bother? This has been one of my major stumbling blocks to achieving personal goals.

Yesterday, before I left for yoga I had about 30 minutes and I thought, you know what, I’m going to give it a try. I also know that you can put it out to the universe but if you don’t show up to do the work, it ain’t gonna happen. So that is what I did. I showed up, skeptical but open. I bet you can guess what happened. I got 200 good words down. That might not sound like much but considering that I’ve only been getting about 300 good words a day total, I felt pretty happy.

When I say “good words,” I mean those that will need very little editing to make them impactful. Not just a telling account of “he did this, then he went over there,” but a showing that draws the reader in. The perfect descriptive words that make you feel like you’re in the story, make you like (or dislike) the character. Make you shudder when you picture the scene.

THAT, is flow. THAT is what it’s all about. Nothing compares to that experience.

Writing for writing’s sake.

I’m trying something new today. Just putting it out there. It  may seem stream of consciousness to you readers, and I apologize for that. Especially to my glass art readers. Things have shifted for me in many areas of life and I’ve brought it to the blog page because I’ve spent years building this blog around glass and that is the readership I’ve tried to serve. Sure, I’d throw in personal life things here and there but for the most part I’ve tried to keep it glass related.

In the last couple years I haven’t been doing my glass art as much. I’d go in spurts and I’d share it on facebook and blog a little bit but I found myself forcing myself to put it on the page here. I thought, “oh, this might be interesting to my readers” so I’d sit down to share it. Kind of like, “don’t forget about me! I’m still here, just not as consistently as I once was.” It wasn’t very fulfilling trying to pull topics out of the air rather than how it used to be–easy, fluid, I WANTED to come here and shout it.

I’ve been writing fiction lately. I finished the first draft of one manuscript and only a few people have seen it. I ended up not liking it. Recently I started another one, horror/thriller, after deciding that I wanted to write what I love instead of trying to fit into a market. Old habits die hard. In the process of exploring a life of writing I’ve read a lot of books. Many how-to books and some just inspiration and insight from other writers. I enjoy both. I love learning on my own and I love hearing others’ experiences.

I noticed three common threads. The first is, show up on the page and start pressing the keys. Easy to say when you’re having an inner struggle that you’re no good, you’re unoriginal, and darn it, who the heck is going to read it anyway? The things is, despite protest, it works. If you sit down and just start blabbing in print, something always comes. Some days it might be a paragraph, other days entire concepts. So, hurdle one surpassed.

The second thing I kept hearing is to write what you love. Write the book you’d want to read. While I’ve come to accept that as well, it’s not as easy as it seems. Just because I love reading thrillers doesn’t make writing one easy. Although, it does make it easier to spend the huge amount of time with the subject matter. The first manuscript was a YA paranormal story. It was fun plotting it and coming up with ideas but my heart wasn’t in it. I don’t necessarily like reading about younger characters and I like more gritty than I was allowing myself to be because of perceived readership. Writing is still writing, and it is work.

The third common things that writers said was that they wrote because they had no choice. A sort of compulsion like some people feel with exercise (another thing that has happened to me). If they didn’t write, they didn’t feel whole.

Which brings me to why I’m writing this all today. Reflecting on what I do and why I do it, as well as the pleasure factor–I believe that everything should be enjoyable, all the time, ha–I realized that I loved blogging. Not when it’s forced, as I touched on above, but when I sit down like this? Pure magic. I do it because I need to. It fulfills me in a way I can’t described. I’ve tried to understand it and the closest I can come is that I need to express myself.

When I said that I haven’t been blogging because I thought the readership I’ve built over the years wouldn’t be interested in reading about writing, or my process, I limited myself. While looking out for you, the reader, I denied what was in me. I’ve struggled with where to put all of these words in me. I’m grateful for some very special facebook friends who have put up with my ramblings but I have more than status updates to share. I need to let it out, regardless of what people think.

So, while I may lose readers who used to follow me for my glass art (does anyone read blogs anymore?) I am kind of going out on a limb here and turning to my blog as a form of self-expression. A journal of my journey and inner thinkings. I know that that is like telling people about the dream you had last night. Yawn. But…

What I’m trying to say is, right now, it’s all about me. I’m writing what I know and what I love and most importantly, I’m showing up to the page and pressing the keys.