Recently, I’ve been going through another spurt of catching up on movies I haven’t seen including Casablanca, Black Swan, and TRON: Legacy (the last being the only disappointment of the three).
But I’ve also been re-watching movies I haven’t seen in awhile. One of those was Becoming Jane with Anne Hathaway.
Right around the time I graduated with my Bachelor’s four years ago, I joined a writing group. The group organizer was wonderful at encouraging us in our writing efforts and I’m still grateful to her for helping me to transition from academic writing to WRITING WHATEVER I WANT. Thank you for that!!
One of the things she was trying to help me with personally was to stop editing as I wrote. And in part she was right: I did edit myself as I wrote, and I still do. It’s something that I’ve gotten better at over the years, but that still happens regularly in my writing times.
Then I re-watched Becoming Jane. In the first scene, Jane is writing before her family wakes up. You can feel the energy pouring out of her as she scribbles word after word after scratched-out word– wait, what? Yep. I did a double-take as she scratched out words and kept writing. Later, when inspired again to write, she does a lot of pacing and jumping up and down between words to keep her brain going. Both scenes made me smile. Yes, it’s a work of fiction based on a writer, not a memoir, not actually watching an author write her first draft, and yet…
And yet it gave me a teeny epiphany: everything’s about balance, right? So when I write a word and immediately realize that it’s the wrong word as the perfect word jumps into its place, not only is it okay that I make the change, but I must make the change to honor whatever artistic spirit moved through me to find the right word. However there’s a limit to this type of editing-while-writing: not liking what I just wrote, whether it’s sentences, paragraphs, or even the whole thing… leave it alone; I have to leave it alone and just keep writing. Change course maybe, if the direction I was going in no longer feels right, but otherwise I just have to keep going and make the edits later. Or, if I’m afraid of losing my sudden inspiration, I can, and do make notes on the side, but then I have to go back and keep writing.
Likewise, I usually have to visualize my scenes and think through them before I start writing; I can’t always (read: rarely) write in non-stop, stream-of-consciousness. I envy those who can but that’s not how I work. To get my scenes on paper, as I said, I have to visualize them first, and as I’m writing, make occasional stops to think through the next part of the scene.
I think that when I get stuck is when I don’t let myself write that way; don’t let myself write in the way that works for me. When I do let myself write in this dreaming, visual state, then my writing flows. Then I feel less like a creator, and more like a conduit for someone else’s story that was just waiting to be told. It’s an amazing feeling. (Until I start editing lol…)
So remember: learn writing skills. Learn about other ways of writing and try them so you can see which way, or ways, work best for you, and then use what works for you and trust it. The words will come.