Saturday, 11 April 2015

In a rush

It takes time
Rushing is the enemy of my creativity. Have I said that before? If not, I have certainly thought it. I admit that deadlines can be very motivating. But if I haven’t allowed enough time for research, drafting, reviewing and rewriting then it isn’t going to be a very good piece. All these parts of the process are crucial – even for short pieces. I know that for a 450 words piece it still takes a couple of days to find the angle, understand the issue, interview people, write it up, find missing information, check facts, review, edit and re-write as required.

Opening your heart
Last week we did a great exercise in my non-fiction class. We wrote for 20 minutes in longhand on the topic of “I couldn’t wait to say goodbye…” We were then asked to spend the next two hours re-working the piece. I chose to go to the library. Partly because when everyone is writing quietly it feels a bit claustrophobic, like an exam. And partly so I could use the computer – I like to move my sentences around and see where they fit best. 

 For me it was a very interesting experience – I could directly compare the original draft with the final product. These days it is so easy to just save over old drafts and so it becomes rather harder to remember where I started from. I wrote about the logistics of leaving my big backpack behind and only taking a small one with me on the pilgrimage. The final piece was longer at 500 words. It contained the same ideas as the original but I had explored them in more detail and had taken the reader on more of a journey, moving from the concrete to the abstract. I developed the depth by making the link to emotional baggage more explicit. I was pleased that the final piece still contained some of my original sentences, pretty much untouched.

Lots of threads to explore
Since then I have been working on a bigger piece at home for a writing competition – on the same subject matter. The next piece needs to be between 1500 and 3000 words – quite a leap from the original. In 500 words I covered all the points I wanted to make in about equal number of words, developing the emotional aspects more. But in the bigger piece I needed to think a little harder about the structure, flow and where to put the emphasis. It is still a work in progress but I am finding that with more words I can include more details and a bit more of the back story. Some of the sentences from the first draft are still there, they are now acting as anchor points for the structure.

Hatching new ideas
I need to think about applying this on a larger scale. Getting the first draft down is really just getting the material onto the page. On the page the words, sentences and paragraphs can be examined more objectively. I can see the shape and the holes more clearly. In that sense anything is better than a blank page. Just having somewhere to start means that something will have to happen, and when it does, then I have something to work with. Something that can be built, renovated, polished and shined.