Beginnings, Middles and Ends: The Creative Process #8
I’ve decided to syndicate my ebook Overcome Writer’s Block: 10 Writing Sparks to Jumpstart Your Creativity on my blog, Writer’s Fun Zone, over about 10 weeks. You can read the whole book here, or buy the entire ebook at Kindle, Smashwords, and at other ebook vendors.
Beginnings, Middles and Ends: The Creative Process
“Every day and in every way, I am becoming an artist.”
— adapted from Al Franken’s Stewart Smalley on Saturday Night Live
Awareness: Knowledge is Power
Knowing your creative process, and knowing what stage you’re in, helps you be a better artist — by adding more awareness and understanding to your life.
In this article, by creative process I mean the first draft stage of your writing. And in my case, I’m referring to the first draft of my current novel.
Are you in the beginning — enthusiastic, hopeful, a burst of energy? Are you in the middle — challenged by the material, wondering what to do next? Or, are you at the end, sad or glad to be finishing?
Instead of reacting to your perhaps chaotic thoughts and feelings at each stage (reacting being the effect of the thinking and feelings), recognize that such thoughts and feelings are part of the process, and that you can choose to respond instead of react. So, what are they in more detail? I’ll describe the three stages as I experience them. I’ll then ask you to investigate your thoughts and feelings about where you are in your creative process with your writing.
When I’m at the beginning of a novel, I often feel anxiety and nervousness. When I become aware of this, I realize the feelings stem from not knowing what the story will be, only that it wants to be told. Then I realize that the anxiety is more like an excited energy wanting to bubble up out of my subterranean mind. Once I’m past the uncertainty, I become excited and start right in on story creation, and the beginning sails past smoothly. Until I hit the end of the beginning, and the start of the middle.
Many novelists I know talk about the “dreaded middle.” This is where procrastination, i.e., doing anything but writing, rears its head. In this lump of middle, what is going on?
This is often where I want to run screaming from the page because suddenly I’m knee deep in the story and all my worries come to the fore: is this story any good? What about this other character? Where do I go from here? Oh no, I’ve deviated from my outline. What do I do?
Pesky thoughts of that nature. And feelings? Ah, this is where I feel like I really don’t know how to write. And what am I doing being a writer anyway?
Ah, yes. The middle. Well, what I’ve learned is that this is a necessary part of the writing cycle. It’s messy, not pretty, and not fit to be shown except to the most forgiving of souls. This is where I am right now in my novel. My strategy? To allow this to be the messy part of the novel writing process. That’s what it is. And then I sit down to write and create more mess, and have fun doing it. Because soon comes the end.
Finishing a first draft for me makes me sad. I’ve so enjoyed discovering the story that I’m sad for this discovery process to end. It will never be this fresh again. I am also looking forward to the editing phase, which has its own beginning, middle and end, though different from the first draft stage. As I end a story, I linger, taking my time to write the final scenes, saying good-bye to my characters in their freshness. Then I give myself time to acknowledge the ending, have a good cry, and give myself time to be done. That is, I let myself transition slowly to the next phase. Most importantly, I celebrate.
Where Are You?
Take a moment to pinpoint where you are in your process: beginning, middle, or end of your writing project. Now what? Celebrate! Wherever you are in the process, you deserve acknowledgement. At every stage, you deserve support, kudos, and high fives. If the work is not over, get to work. If it is, then celebrate.
If you are not sure what stage you’re in, seek advice. Ask others in your field to reveal their stages of work. If they don’t know, it will be a learning process for the both of you. If they do know, you can learn from their experience and wisdom. Of what they offer, take what resonates with you and discard the rest — not as invalid, only as not applicable to you.
Celebrate Your Success
Take the time to celebrate your finished piece and the journey you took to arrive at this moment. You did it! Not only are you a creative being — we all are — you acted upon a dream and spent time, energy and resources to bring your creation to life. You overcame the challenges, faced the enemies of weak focus, lack of motivation, so-called procrastination, and external naysayers and time-sucks. You climbed the mountain of self-doubt, fear and inertia. You created!
Congratulations! Now show your art. Benefit humanity through your unique vision by showing ourselves to ourselves. Find your audience, and announce your creation to the world.
Let your light shine. Enlighten us with your beauty, truth and masterful-ness.
An author too, she’s the author of the 2012 award-winning young adult fantasy novel Henrietta The Dragon Slayer, as well as of the bestselling nonfiction books for authors and aspiring authors.
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