Writing as Discovery
I have read a lot lately about writing as discovery. Jane Kenyon put it this way: “There’s the need to make sense of life behind the impulse to write.”
When I started writing in a creative way, this is consciously what inspired me. I was a middle school girl going through a lot of changes and life was sooo dramatic. I perceived a lot more issues than were present but if you had told me that at the time I would have locked myself in my room for the rest of the day and scribble poems in my notebook.
These poems were always one page long, the title always came from a direct word or phrase in the poem itself and they were always nonfictional. I wrote to try to find out why my best friend had ditched me, why my parents were fighting, why my sister had made me change clothes before we went to the high school baseball game. I wrote these poems—and reread them—trying to figure out what was going on in my head and in my heart and why those feelings never seemed to match up.
Joan Didion ends her essay “Why I Write” saying “…had I known the answer to any of these questions I would never have needed to write a novel.”
Not knowing what is coming next in my own novel is what keeps me going and what makes me afraid to go forward. I don’t have a plan. I don’t know my character’s deepest ambitions. I have no idea what is going to happen in the next chapter, let alone the ending. I’m not even sure what genre it is. But I force myself to sit down and write because I want to know what is going to happen. I want my character to reveal his deepest fears when the time is right and if I don’t push the story forward, he will never get the chance.
When I was a short-fused, teenage girl who died her hair purple on a whim, I wrote because I needed some sense of control. I needed to know what I was trying to say when I was tongue tied. I needed to know where my heart was leading me when I saw nothing but darkness in every direction. Back then it was nonfictional poems, today its fictional short stories and novels, but I write for the same reasons.
See, I have this inkling,
that as my novel goes on
and my character reveals himself,
he’s turning out to be more and more like me.