Thursday, February 11, 2010

WRT: The Lonesome Journey – Traveling Alone, with a Loved One, or with Strangers?

I have something to confess: I hate admitting I’m lost. Oh, I don’t mind getting lost (happens a lot), or being lost (it's practically a perpetual state for me), it’s the idea of having others know I’m lost that I hate. And forget about asking for directions. I’d rather slink into the nearest Walmart or Texaco for a map (I know, it’s so-o-o 2005 not to have a GPS):

Cashier: “So, you’re lost?”
Me: “Me? Ha-ha. No, actually I needed something to line the birdcage in my car.”

Or:

Gas station attendant: “So, you’re lost?”
Me: “What? Ridiculous! No, I’m just trying to revive the ancient art of map-folding.”

I know, I know: it’s a guy thing.

Except it’s more than that.

See, this is also exactly how I behave when I write. I hate the idea of a work-in-progress that's not absolutely, positively one-hundred percent polished (in which case, it's not a WIP anymore). I hate the idea of a WIP being judged as directionless, when, in fact, that’s how most of them spend the majority of their life, seemingly aimlessly wandering about. That’s usually how I write, with a vague notion of my destination and how the story unfolds. Okay, that's an overstatement, but for me, writing is a constant battle between journeys of discovery (where every possibility is worthy of exploration) and journeys of efficiency (shortest distance, two points, blah, blah, blah). It’s messy, sorta like sausage-making. And who wants to see that?

It’s especially bad for my wife. She has to patiently wait until I’m done with a story and have polished it to a fine sheen before she even gets to peek at it. She’s not a writer, and so I should take her input with that in mind. Right? But I don’t. Her opinion matters to me. Which is why I avoid asking for it until I’m beyond sure it’ll be positive.

Cripes, I have issues.

On the other hand, I ask my kids all the time to sit down and listen to what Daddy’s written. They love it unconditionally. But then again, they love it when I read Politico or Newsweek out loud to them, too (which probably goes a long way to explaining my son’s fascination with a certain politician, who shall remain unnamed [initials S.P., rhymes with parasailin’] and my daughter’s overfamiliarity with the phrase: “Drill, baby, drill!”). My kids love what I write. (And no, I don’t mention any of this in my query letters).

But it’s not just about always getting positive feedback. I don’t mind sharing my work with perfect strangers. Why is that? Sure it hurts when I get less than stellar feedback— even more so, since a lot of it comes from those in the know. So, why don’t I mind exposing myself to other writers, to admitting I’m lost or that my WIP is a mess?

Because I know their WIP journeys are, for the most part, just as messy, just as circuitous, just as seemingly directionless. Among this community of writers, it’s okay to get lost and to be lost. It's a writer thing.

How about you? Do you feel the same way about your writer’s journey? Or do share your journeys more than I do?

1 comment:

  1. I am very good at asking directions. And I don't have a GPS. I'm a plotter, so I have googled maps and mapquest directions at my side before I go anywhere. I don't like being lost. It works the same for my manuscript. I plot/outline before I write. But while I'm outlining I can feel a little lost, which is the stage I'm at now. So I sympathize. :)

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