Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Usually, when I write, I complete the project in a single draft--essentially editing as I go. It is a method which many who know me find quite baffling (in some cases even infuriating) because there is neither reason nor rhyme to the order in which each piece unfolds. Sometimes, I begin with the original idea in outline form then flesh out the body itself. Equally likely is that I might jot down a series of key phrases then work outwards towards the beginning and end. I have built entire short stories around a single conversation, idea, setting, or visual sketch. There have been times when, inspired by an individual encountered on the street, a particular meal, a current event or newspaper article, or basically any commonplace feature of my day, I have simply begun writing, jotting down images or details until a story come into being. Usually, though, an idea forms, and I rush to record the images before the mental depiction fades, expanding upon that original concept as I write.
This week, however, I am completely stumped.
Two weeks ago, disturbed by oddly indecipherable dreams, I awoke with an idea for the collection of modern "fairy tales" on which I had been working. Ostensibly, the book itself was finished--first draft completed with my loathing to touch it lest I mangle "perfection"; however, this story was so bizarre, so eerily unusual that rest would not come until I finished it.
Until that point, my children's stories flowed into being in a very smooth, very seamless effort, flowing onto the page as though I were telling the tale aloud to my own children, as I had done throughout their childhoods. This stubborn creation, though, refused to take shape. For an hour or more, its imagery seemed to guide itself from the realm of imagination onto my computer screen with little (if any) help from me. Ah! Dame Inspiration had struck and I had but to bow to her demands.
Then I realized...
It didn't have an ending.
The general idea was in place, as were the main characters, their personalities, the setting, pivotal conversations, the plot, the conflict, even the "moral" (as it was a fable)...yet absolutely no resolution whatsoever!
I had no clue as to how to end it.
Then, worse, when in the days that followed an ending materialized, I could think of no way to ease the main characters from that point at which I had left them suspended to that grand and glorious end.
And I still don't.
Perhaps this humbling experience is an atonement from my rather obstinate refusal to in any way alter my "formula" for writing. Or, maybe the time has come for me to face the need for some systematic approach to the story-making process. Some would even call it just retribution to my indignant and rather scathing responses (born of the "It's MY work! Don't touch it!" attitude) to constructive criticism--oddly ironic in one who "edits" the work of others for a living (though, in my own defense, I am just as passionate about preserving the very distinctly original voice of those others, as well).
Regardless of the why's and wherefore's, "The Sorcerer's Assistant" stares expectantly up at me, waiting patiently for an ending. As Far As the Mind Can Fathom is without its dark, somewhat macabre "last" entry. And I am left searching for an appropriate twist in the adventure of my hapless protagonist. I suppose his fate has become my own--a main character left in suspended animation until some resolution can be found.
But, then again, is that not the essence of all art: becoming somehow at one with that which is being created (and it becoming an extension of you) until elements of both are taken and received, forming on both sides a completely new and wondrous entity?
What is "writer's block" to you?