Writer’s instinct in action!

A weird thing happened to me last night while I was working on my new manuscript.

After slapping together a basic outline for the first book in what I hope will be a trilogy, I had trouble outlining the second and third. So, I decided to just start writing the first one in hopes the ideas would congeal a little better.

I started hating all two thousand words that I’d written over the last week, but I thought all first drafts are shitty—I can fix it later. So I kept on writing the next scene.

Here’s the weird part.

I’m in the process of writing this scene, and I’m hating on every word I type out. It’s not flowing, the dialogue is dragging, and my descriptions of the scene leave almost everything to be desired. I’m bitching and moaning in my head for 650 words. Then, I stop to take a break and I reread the scene.

It’s not pretty or well executed, but again, I can fix that later. What surprised me was that the whole time I was muttering to myself about how awful it was, I was also writing an important plot point into the scene.

A plot point I had not thought about. A plot point I was thinking of setting up later in the chapter.

And this plot point worked. It will serve to reinforce things that happen later in the story, and serves as a point of conflict in the scene.

It just appeared. Instinctively. Organically. Without me having to think about it once, and while I was actively thinking about something completely different.

I am amazed and disturbed at the same time. Amazed that my instinct for this story is so strong that it overcame negative self-talk. Disturbed that my negative self-talk is so strong that I didn’t realize what I was writing was actually okay, in terms of the greater narrative.

I hope that my story telling instinct stays strong in the future. I could write a whole book on instinct and finesse it later, and that would be all right.

Has anyone every experienced that kind of moment, where instinct takes over while you’re writing? Tell me about it in the comments.

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Thank you to my 100 followers!

Hello, my hearts!

Great news: I broke 100 followers on WordPress. Woo hoo! It’s a milestone I’d like to celebrate, because, well, why not?

Thanks for being here for me. Cheers.

Thanks for being here for me. Cheers.

Thank you guys so much for following, and listening to my rants, and indulging me when I post bad poetry. I’d like to think a made a few blogger friends–it’s always nice to have friends.

If you’d like to keep up with shorter, random updates, pieces of philosophy and a variety of wacky thoughts, be sure to follow me on Twitter @JackieHames.

Thanks again for listening. I hope you have an excellent Friday!

The Escape

Around Easter, I had the following text conversation with a friend.

Me: My round candies are escaping! AAAHHH!

Friend: Woman, keep your candy in line!

Me: WE’VE GOT A ROLLER. It’s okay, I caught it before it could get far.

Friend: Good. Punish the rebel as an example to the others.

Me: Oh, I did.

That conversation led to me making the following video as an experiment for work. I was testing out new camera equipment and toying with new ways to tell stories. This is what’s known as a multi-media piece. Please enjoy.

How else do you all tell stories? In what ways do you experiment to keep your writing fresh? Link back to your Other Techniques in the comments.

I have faith in humanity. I have to.

Making art is a very personal act. Visual arts, music, the written word—all of it requires the creator to briefly let down personal shields and imbue the work with a tiny piece of the self.

Sometimes, that makes creating art really difficult. Sometimes, it is so difficult it actually paralyzes the artist with fear. I mean, opening up a bit of your soul to others is a big deal. It is an exercise in faith in humanity.

Faith that your opinions are not completely crazy. Faith that your eccentricities are not unique. Faith that the darkest corners of your mind can actually be restored to light because someone else already has the candle.

The extra-sensitive artists, like myself, have an almost insurmountably difficult obstacle to get around.

Okay, I’m going to lower the forward shields for a minute and tell you a secret: I am super sensitive. I have built a quasi-functional wall around myself to ensure that I can accept criticism of my writing with grace and open-mindedness, because that is that only way I’ll improve. This wall also helps keep out irrelevant exterior criticisms, say about my fashion choices or what kind of movies I like to watch.

The problem is that all the strength is in the forward, exterior-facing wall. The inward wall, the one that faces friends and family, has not been fortified. So, if a friend or family member lobs an off-hand comment about…oh, maybe how they hate the shoes I’m wearing in my direction, it’s bad news.

Critical hit. Red alert. MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY WE’RE GOING DOWN.

Seriously, it gets to me. It shouldn’t at all, but it does. This makes it hard for me to write sometimes. Why? Because my friends and family will be the first people to see my writing. They get the first round of beta-reads; they are the “Is this total horse shit or should I keep going?” litmus test.

Sometimes, my little wall works—criticism is ingested with an open mind and helps me make the project better. Other times, it doesn’t. And then I think about all the exterior people who could possible hate my writing and I wilt. What’s the point? Why write anything? Hell, why leave the house? It’s a sneaky doom spiral and it sinks its poisonous claws into me more often than I’d like to admit.

The mantra of the ever-terrifying and totally awesome Chuck Wendig is to “harden the fuck up, Care Bear,” and he’s right.  But how do you balance the adamantium exoskeleton with the slow leak of soul-juice into your project?

How do you fortify that which you have put forward with a gooey center?

You can’t, not really. You sort of have to accept on faith, that someone, somewhere, is going to defend your work, and by extension, that tiny bit of your soul.

You have to have faith in other people. Other artists. Other soul-chips bouncing around in the ether.

My personal and current beacon of hope is Brandon Stanton, creator of Humans of New York. He is a street portrait photographer and if you haven’t seen his site, you’re missing out.

Mr. Stanton roams the streets of New York City (and Tehran, and most recently, Boston) and finds interesting people to photograph. The portraits are everything from hilarious to despairing, and every last one of them is beautiful. He asks each subject a few questions and puts the most revealing answers as captions for his photos. Some people merit full-on stories and the audience discovers how different people are, and some times, how judgmental we all can be.

Stanton’s project is interesting in that each portrait carries two soul-chips. The one that is captured from the subject by the camera, and one of his own. The people he chooses to photograph reveal something about the photographer. Namely, that he is open-minded, courageous and selfless.

Open-minded because he approaches people society would revile.

Courageous because he approaches subjects that scare him, or may put him in danger.

Selfless in that he wants to tell the stories of the people he photographs and in doing so, teaches the rest of us not to judge a book by it’s cover.

I don’t know how he balances the exoskeleton with the slow-leak of soul, but I’m glad he’s got a handle on the technique.

It helps me remember to write even though I am afraid, and sometimes because I am afraid.

Flashback Friday!

I would just like to point out to you all that I have had The Klutziness all my life. It started with minor flaky moments, and evolved to the personal, self-inflicted injury that I know today.

My uncle sent me this photo recently:

That's peach satin with a lace overlay, for the uneducated. And a hoop skirt.

That’s peach satin with a lace overlay, for the uneducated. And a hoop skirt.

Which reminded me of The Incident I had wearing that dress. I was the flower girl in a late 80s/early 90s wedding.

That dress, which I so ardently adored at that time–it made me feel like a freakin’ princess, okay?–became the bane of my existence. It had a hoop skirt. Which, for a little girl, is pretty awesome. So, picture this.

My mother, wearing a powdered blue satin dress with lace gloves, is milling around my grandmother’s living room with her sisters, and the bride–who is also her sister. All the bridesmaids are wearing some pale shade of satin dress. I decided to sit on the couch. Like every little kid, I plopped down haphazardly.

And then my skirt went over my head.

It was a storm of lace and peach and laughter. I flailed around for a second because the hoop was attacking me. But, eventually my mother came to my rescue and got me off the couch and my skirt under control.

I was so glad the room was filled only with women.

The rest of the wedding and reception, I had to perch on the end of chairs. It was quite uncomfortable.

Ain't I cute? I wonder what happened.

Ain’t I cute? I wonder what happened.

The end. Happy Friday.