Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Writing on Wednesday: Sketching the Words

Bagasse Composition Book
My current carry-around writing book, complete with ever-growing doodle.

Two of my brothers are artists of one caliber or another. For one brother, it has become a vocation in graphic design and painting; for the other, it is a passionate on-again, off-again hobby.

Like most artsy types, both of them went through childhood and adolescence and into adulthood with a sketchbook always in evidence: a tattered bound book, ready at a moment's notice for doodles, cartoons, sketches, skeletal ideas to be filled out later. Most of what went into those books was strictly for practice, and stayed within those pages; not valueless by any means, but having served its purpose already. A few ideas stood out, and were brought out and restated in more complete works.

For whatever reason, until the last few months, I've tended to approach writing with a far more formal air. For the most part, I've worked on one project at a time, and taken each project very seriously, no matter the content. Abandoned stories, long and short - and I have a number of them - made me feel miserably guilty.

But something clicked for me recently. Part of it is that I've gone back to using nice cheap composition books, I think. Part of it is just a dawning realization that it's OK to play with writing. It's OK to just practice. It's OK to try out and reject. Yeah, it only took me about twenty-five years to figure this out.

So I've been "sketching". I'll sit there with my notebook as I drink coffee before work, or at lunch, or on the couch in the evenings, and write whatever pops into my head. I might scribble down a scene, or the start of an essay, or a conversation between two people I don't know yet. I'll pick at a picture the way I might do for a poem - which, oddly, I've always been less strict about. I'll take an object or a face or a situation and write around it, without worrying if it's going to go anywhere. Now...I've had my brain-dump notebook for awhile now, but this is a different concept. That notebook is more quick notes, fragments, comments on works-in-progress: nothing very long. In this notebook, I write as much as I want of whatever I want - and if it doesn't pan out, I move on.

The notebook is starting to get full; filled with overlapping pieces of stories, fragments of poetry, disjointed thoughts. Is this better than my "old" organized, serial style of writing? I'm not sure. All I know is that I have three short stories and some potential blog posts that will almost certainly get finished, and a whole assemblage of other bits and pieces I can probably use elsewhere. It gets me writing. And for once, I don't feel guilty about the mess.


mpclemens said...

It's all about keeping both halves of the brain happy, I think. Right brain wants to free-associate and meander and blather and chat, left brain wants to sort and stack and order and plot and Rollabind. They have to work together to get anything done, though.

Let that right brain dig up all the rocks it wants to: the left brain will worry about polishing them into gems later.

deek said...

I'm right there with ya, LFP. I just have yet been able to cross that line and give myself the okay to jot down pieces...

I really need to get myself into that habit, so I'll be curious to hear how well it is going for you after a few months.

Little Flower Petals said...

I think the trick is to know when something is worth taking further, and then committing to it. At this point, I do have some stories I need to focus on seriously, or they'll never get finished...I think I actually need to switch over to a keyboard of one sort or another if I'm going to progress on those. But starting on paper and playing around some for awhile lets me get to know the characters and stories first, decide if they get the job or if I should just say, "Thanks for your interest. Don't call me--I'll call you."