Tools of the Trade

The idea of my 30-day writing challenge is to write. Not write to well, just to write. However, as I found with my Day Two effort, I quickly lost interest when I didn’t like the path the story was taking and couldn’t think of a way out, or a way to finish it without abruptly stopping mid-sentence. My approach to the challenges thus far has been stream of consciousness writing- direct  dump from thought to keyboard, taking the prompt and going from there. In doing so, I have not used all the tools at my disposal. Over the past 4 years, I have undertaken a range of courses with the Writers’ Studio: “unlocking creativity”, “character and critique short story”, “novel and script first draft ”, and one I am currently enrolled in- “second draft novel and script”.

The first two courses in particular opened up a world of possibilities for me. I found that I was starting to enjoy the creative process and for once able to occasionally call myself a ‘writer’ in between frequent bouts of self-doubt. In  unlocking creativity , the idea was to just write, without too much structure, thought or editing – quite often just jotting down a few details for a character (name, age, relationship status) and then closing one’s eyes and trying to embody the character, his/her emotions, the setting, and building ‘bricks of detail’ to convey something using all the senses before finally putting pen to paper (and using pen and paper rather than typing was an important part of the organic unfolding of a story). By the end of unlocking creativity, the exercises included exploring a character’s weakness, the struggle they overcome when faced with a series of obstacles, and finally, the self-revelation toward the end of the story when they see themselves and their place in the world clearly for the first time. The character and critique course went further, identifying a character’s desire, fear etc. and also any conflict between one character and the next. And of course, structuring goes into a lot more depth in the first and second draft novel courses, with development of a character arc, central dramatic question, turning points etc.

For the remaining 27 days of the challenge, I will take the time to draw on the tools from unlocking creativity and character and critique to give me a little more chance of making the most of the daily writing prompts. Who knows? Perhaps one of the daily pieces could inspire a more detailed story or novel one day, which was the case for three interwoven vignettes conceived in unlocking creativity that inspired my first draft novel.

I feel I must address the elephant in the room. I mentioned being enrolled in the second draft course. Yes, currently enrolled and now on the second extension I have been given to complete what I have barely started. I have had a range of excuses for not progressing my writing beyond the first draft of a story I was once very excited about. My problem is, I am bored of the story, and I am bored of the discipline of having to spend more time working on the structure of the story while following the course material, with minimal focus on the actual writing part (I am told that is the focus of the third draft course). I can see the merits of following through with the course and gaining the feedback of my very understanding and insightful tutor, but right now what I need to do is regain a sense of fun when writing and overcome the inertia of procrastination.

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