Does fear sometimes stop you from writing?
You see, the problem is that writers need to improvise.
And that can be terrifying.
Because there is no map that can help us get our idea or story onto the page.
Here’s how Charles Baxter described the process:
Sitting in the dark of Gregory’s room, with a cigar in his hand and Glenn Miller playing “Chattanooga Choo-Choo” softly beside him, Jerome began a bunny story. “Once upon a time, there was a bunny who lived with his mommy and daddy in a bunny hole at the edge of the great green wood.” All the other bunny stories started with that sentence. After it, Jerome was deep in the terror of fictional improvisation. ~Charles Baxter: Harmony of the World: Stories
Most writers have to dive deep into the terror of fictional or factional improvisation each time they write. It’s like walking into a dark wood where there are not only mom and pop rabbits – but also dragons.
What are your dragons?
For most of us, the dragons of fear and self-doubt lurk out there in the darkness.
Let’s take a look at how to find ease and joy when improvising. But first, let me ask you a question.
Are you a brilliant writer?
Writing continues to be a scary proposition for me, as I don’t see myself as particularly talented and I wonder how much longer I’ll be able to massage novels out of my meagre storehouse of gifts. From Elizabeth George: Write Away – One Novelist’s Approach to Fiction and the Writing Life
Well, I’m not a brilliant writer. And maybe you aren’t, either.
You don’t need to be a brilliant writer. You just need to be a ‘good enough’ writer.
And you must be willing to learn and practice. Because ninety percent of good writing is craft – and not innate talent.
Let’s talk about improvising.
The magic of the first thought
I recently joined Toastmasters to hone my ability to speak in public.
One of the exercises that I found most challenging is called Table Topics. It’s an improvisational exercise where you have to stand up and improvise on a random topic.
This exercise taught me something important:
The first thought is pure gold.
But it’s sometimes off the wall. If we discount the first thought, our creativity dries up and we instantly become self-conscious.
I found that if I let rip with my first thought and let it lead me – something emerges that surprises everyone (myself included).
It’s the same with writing.
The first thought is precious. But it is often unexpected, or weird, or quirky.
My suggestion is to follow your first thought and let it lead you.
The magic of your first thought will lead you through the dark forest of mommy rabbits and dragons.
It will be your guide through the terror of fictional improvisation.
Oh, and talking of dragons… What is YOUR dragon? (Please share in the comments).