There’s a great thing that happens after you’ve spent a morning writing, and you think I haven’t got anything there, not anything, and then you go away and become depressed, and when you come back, you find a good sentence or a good speech buried somewhere in the yards you’ve written. It’s in those hours of writing crap where you find a little thing that’s worth it, that makes you believe in the process of writing. ~Emma Thompson
I was cleaning out my ever-growing pile of notebooks yesterday and found six of them from mid 2010 through late 2011. I tend to keep them at least until I can go through them and pull out any promising story bits. It’s also nice to see how much I’ve grown in some areas and whether I’ve made progress in others. But I digress.
These years were a time of stress. We relocated from Tennessee to Texas, we lost a beloved pet, and my husband spent seven weeks in the hospital. I wrote when I was worried and when things weren’t going well and when hope was ebbing. But in these writings I found three story starts that are actually pretty good (and half a dozen others that will go into my seeds file). The tension is there, the flavor of the back story is there, the attitudes of the characters are hinted at. One is quite developed. One short story was written twice and I like them both.
Most of my story starts are much rougher than these. It’s always interested me that, while writing crap, worries, or just nonsense, how often little gems, golden descriptions, and amazingly clear prose sitting right in the middle of it all.
It’s as if they slip secretly through our pens when we are most distracted. That’s one of the many things I love about this thing called writing.
No matter how many notebooks I fill with complaints about a circumstance or worrying over things I can’t control, reading them later always reveals some treasure that restores my faith and love for writing.
Keeping a journal has given back far more than the effort it took. I’ve transferred these recovered seeds to a binder. I’ll ponder them and hope to take at least one of them to completion. I’m still excited about the short story.
If you don’t keep a journal, I encourage you to do so. Keep them until you can dig out those gems and bits of gold. Destroy them afterward if you like, but keep the best bits that you find. I find them very encouraging when I’m at a creative low.
I hope a journal does the same for you.
In saving old journals of my personal feelings, I find snap shots of where my life was at the time. Things I battled with, struggles that I overcame. For fiction, it shows how my writing has progressed. It’s always nice seeing where I was and where I am now.
These old journals have shown I’m always generating ideas and “unprepared prose” is sometimes the most powerful prose I write.. I track the personal stuff, too, and find it an important reminder of human progress. Thanks, Marcy. 🙂
“It’s as if they slip secretly through our pens when we are most distracted. That’s one of the many things I love about this thing called writing.”
I love those two sentences. They sum up the ebb and flow of writing so incredibly well. I certainly write my share of crap. Of course, sometimes crap is too nice a word 😉 But, I have recently begun to really trust the process, writing daily, knowing that not every day is going to produce something worthy of sharing with another human being (or even our cats), but it is only in composing those malformed thoughts that you find the gems buried deep inside. Well done, Robyn, this came at a perfect time. Thank you!
Thank you and you’re welcome, Dave. Nothing has built my faith more than finding a gem in the dross when I am doubting. 🙂