Art Holcomb guest blogged over on storyfix.com, "Get Our of Your Way". He recounts a friends' writing efforts. The friend has been writing a long time and Mr Holcomb has pestered the author into letting him read what's been done. When he does, he discovers only one chapter is completed, and offers this exchange between them:
ME: I love it! Where’s the rest?
DAVID: Well, that’s all there is so far.
ME: I thought you’d been at this for a while.
DAVID (proudly)I have been. I’ve been rewriting the first chapter until I got it right.
ME: For how long?
DAVID: Eleven years this February.
Mr Holcomb wonders what separates successful writers from talented writers, like his friend, David, who was talented, but ended up like many writers, caught in a loop.
It was serendipity to encounter that this week, as I've been wondering the same, sort of meandering through it again and again, developing my understanding of myself as the Writer now, working to finish a novel and find publication. Mr Holcomb thought the difference may be Faith and Trust. I was surprised to learn I agreed with him but had added reasons.
Mr Holcomb thought writing success had to do with the comfort level (which I do, too), and with people's unwillingness to leave their comfort level. There's a lot of truth there, I'm sure. That takes me back again to "Wonder Boys" and the now aging wonder boy professor writing his novel but never making progress, except increasing word and page counts. I worry about doing the same thing.
Mr Holcomb went on to say that a writer must have Faith that they have more than one idea in them, that you won't be defined by your last effort, that you can keep growing. I certainly agree with those tenets. The Trust aspect entered in believing that what you write will find an audience, and again, that's what I think.
My thinking differs slightly after that. I think minds act like the earth's crust as a slow motion conveyor belt. Things rise to the surface, live there, exposed to conscious awareness and then becomes buried and is carried back down into deeper levels, where its harder to reach.
One of those remembered pieces of information that re-surfaced the other day was a comment I once read, by who, I don't know, that, "All books are already written." Once you think of it, it already exists somewhere. Your job, in writing it, is to realize its form and transfer it from there to here. Successful writers are those with the Courage to respect the book and allow it to come through. Call it transferring, realizing, downloading. Call it God. I don't know what it is.
I've encountered that aspect, that this book already exists and I'm just bringing it 'over here', many times as I write and try to think, what should happen next, and go happily writing along only to slam into a wall. Since I've experienced that, I've learned to understand what has happened when it happens. It's like driving around looking for someplace only to realize, "Wait a minute. I've been lost here before."
Getting lost is a natural part of looking around. It can be beneficial if you pay attention. I don't know how many times while driving around with my wife that we went, "There is an X here! Remember, we saw it that time when were lost looking for Y." Then, all we have to do is get lost again looking for Y and find X. Simplifying the labored explanation, getting lost is learning.
Now when I get lost in this way while writing, I recognize that I've changed books. The book I'm writing goes cold in me because it's not the book I began writing, and the book is protesting. It's not the book that I thought of and began writing to 'bring through'. I have to retrace steps to find that book.
I think, and it's just my theory, that successful writers recognize or understand that on some level. Maybe that's what we call talent, or maybe it's focus or discipline. But as part of that, when it happens and you get lost downloading it through writing, you accept that you've lost a lot of time and work, and there is now more work to be done. Part of this is editing, revising, and re-writing, as well. You're honing the book to the one you thought of when you began, the one you realized and created elsewhere when you thought of it.
In a way, it's the multiverse theory of novel writing. The books are all out there, waiting to be brought in, already finely realized. You, through writing, are connecting two different multiverses, and bringing an object over from one place to another. And yes, if you start on one book and shift to another book halfway through, the second book also exists, and you should be able to merrily continue and just bring it on through. Perhaps that's what the greatest talent is, to do, as Art Holcomb said, to have the Faith and Trust to just do it, let the book come on through and don't worry yourself that it's not book you began, recognize and accept there's many books and adjust, adapt, manage and finagle until one of them emerges.
That takes me back to finish the loop that so many preach and that I embrace, perservere. Don't give up. Think about what's happened but don't over-think it, and try again. It really is easy.
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com