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Driving In The Dark

December 26, 2009

I am, it seems, quite good about being very excited about a particular course of action when it occurs to me in the middle of the night with Stephen Fry in the background–the follow-through is where I tend to falter. Because although yesterday I was certain that it was foolhardy to set off on this noveling expedition without any sort of map or compass, today I’m certain that planning just isn’t in my writerly DNA. Today, I remembered E.L. Doctorow’s description of writing as being “like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” Today, I attempted an outline of my novel and have yet to commit to anything beyond the first two chapters. Today, while Googling to make sure I accurately quoted Mr. Doctorow, I found another nugget of his: “Planning to write is not writing. Outlining, researching, talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.”

And so today, I’m reassessing. Examining myself with a more critical eye, I suppose I’m also, to a certain extent, dragging my feet. I knew disciplining myself to be a consistently productive writer rather than a flighty, when-the-muse-moves-me one would be difficult, and it is. But I think I’ve finally done enough introspective procrastination, and I think I’m going to take the flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants approach after all. Of course, the book is nearly always in the back of my mind, answering questions for me and asking me new ones. It’s not like I’m going to refuse to write down an  idea for a later chapter if one occurs to me, but I am going to let my characters surprise me. To me, that’s one of the most exciting things about writing–when the characters you’ve created start running the show. And run it they shall! Starting very, very soon. I promise.

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