In my last post, I mentioned some of my favorite writing books. Instead of doing my own writing, I see what Natalie Goldberg has to say about it. In “The Long Quiet Highway” she writes,
Writing became the tool I used to digest my life and to understand, finally, the grace, the gratitude I could feel, not because everything was hunky-dory, but because we can use everything we are….We can’t use what someone else had–a great teacher, a terrific childhood. That is outside ourselves. And we can’t avoid an inch of our own experience; if we do it causes a blur, a bleep, a puffy unreality. Our job is to wake up to everything, because if we slow down enough, we see we are everything.
Sure, I may be reading Goldberg’s words on writing instead of doing my own. But these words help me to keep going. More than slow me, they give me a sense of legitimacy; I’m not crazy to be thrilled, rocked, and exhilarated by words. I’m not alone in using writing to make sense of the world around me.
This novel of mine. I had the basic idea for it but then had to figure out how it would fill 200-300 pages. After all, my stories, for better or for worse, are tied up in 15 pages (or, you know, left ambiguously ambivalent to represent the ambiguous ambivalence of life).
Step #1, google “how to write a novel.” My former students would laugh as I often cautioned against relying on google for research. However (and I admitted this to them), it can be a starting point. The first non-sponsored link was Randy Ingermanson’s “How To Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method.” He describes a step-by-step process for how to write a novel (while acknowledging that the same process won’t work for everyone). It was helpful for me because I tend to throw characters into a setting and see what they do. I discover who they are and what the story and conflict is during the process of writing about them. But for a larger piece, I knew I needed more structure; I didn’t want to have 5000 words written and still not know the main plot. The “snowflake method” provides a framework.
Perhaps my post title is misleading. When I say “going it alone,” I mean outside of academia. I’m no longer in the process of earning my Bachelors, meeting with my advisor once a week, having my work critiqued. I’m not in an MFA program with prescribed weekly goals and, again, a cohort or advisor telling me I am or I am not headed in the right direction.
I may be here, in my apartment, at my laptop. I may have no one but myself telling me to type instead of watch the Emmy awards. Ultimately, I’m only accountable to myself. But I’m not really “going it alone.” As much as Dillard’s words and Goldberg’s words inspire me to keep at it, so to do the words of this awesome online writing community.