Monday, July 12, 2010

Taos Day 2: Locking the Analytical Bitch in the Closet

Two big takeaways from our first morning with author Pam Houston:

First, she talked about her process. She says she’s the opposite of an outliner. In the beginning, when she’s getting the raw stuff on paper, the writing is associative, not logical. Pam says this is the time to shut up the analytical bitch who just wants to organize a ‘story’ rather than capture the ‘glimmer’ moments. These moments are potent, resonating ticklers that may become part of something larger. For her, the longer she stays in the ‘not knowing,’ the better. Don’t over-determine, don’t over-direct. So many of us do just that with our writing. We want to know the beginning sentence or who does what to whom and how to get there. Here are three questions she never allows herself to ask when writing:
  • What does it mean?
  • Where is it going?
  • How does it end?

I didn’t outline my novel. Several sections wrote themselves as I witnessed twists in the storyline I couldn't have dreamt up in the beginning. Some authors like my favorite author, John Irving, outline. Irving says he always knows the last sentence in the book first. Loved the group’s discussion on process. We’re all so different.

Second, Pam admits to failures of confidence where she goes days, weeks or months without writing. What? She’s an established, successful author. Most of us who are not figure that the pros have figured out the confidence issue; that their ‘process’ involves some way to keep writing the good stuff, the publishable stuff.

Well, she has figured it out. Start writing the unedited glimmer moments, the stuff that sticks out and begs to be written down. When the analytical bitch jumps in to edit, move onto the next glimmer moment. Keep going. One day it you will have the raw material for that story or novel or essay and can begin moving around those bits and pieces and creating again.

Now, I have a writing assignment and manuscripts to read for our critique tomorrow. Good day from Taos.

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