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Help! I’m drowning…
I have no empty drawers in my house. No empty shelves. No empty closets.
I have too many things. Am I materialistic? As a typical American, the answer is probably yes.
The myriad knickknacks, magazines, and (dare I say it?) even books are suffocating me.
Batteries, business cards, binoculars…
Clothes, candles, cords…so many electrical cords…
Half-dead plants, pencils, papers. An astounding number of papers.
I try to ignore the stacks of stuff when I walk into my den. And my bedroom. And my kitchen. But they dance mockingly in my peripheral vision. The clutter taunts me.
I can ignore a messy room. Until I can’t. Some people have a tipping point. I skip straight to the exploding point. I MUST get rid of some clutter NOW.
Don’t Mess with Creativity
They say that messy people are more creative. That working in a messy environment encourages new ideas. But can it be too messy? Can you have too much of a
good bad thing? You know, the Law of Diminishing Returns and all that.
I can’t create while seeing the clutter and knowing that I should be doing something about it — instead of writing.
So, to help my writing — and to help the people I live with and whom I love so much — I will aspire to own fewer things. My new motto? Possess Less.
I will accomplish my goal one junk drawer at a time.
It’s hard to take little steps while you’re exploding.
I love this post. It IS possible to fall in love with a place. Thank you, Anxious Introvert.
In the fall of 2011, my best friend at the time was finishing a semester abroad in Spain as part of her junior year of college. It had been a lifelong dream, and I still think of her whenever I hear someone speaking Spanish. As early December arrived, I was dreaming of Christmas break and all that entailed — being home for five weeks, surrounded by family and old friends, with not a deadline in sight. My friend, however, was beginning a strange sort of mourning period with which I was unfamiliar.
“I always knew it was possible to fall in love with a person, but I never knew you could fall in love with a place,” she told me one evening. I thought it was such an odd sentiment, and I would be remiss to say I didn’t fancy her a bit dramatic at that moment.
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As much as I want to be authentic, I fall short.
It’s not usually intentional, trying to be someone I’m not. It’s subconscious.
Sometimes, I glimpse those fake personas in my heart. Like floaters that come and go, they drift into my line of sight when I’m not looking for them. The more I try to focus on them, the more they elude me.
“Many poets are not poets for the same reason that many religious men are not saints: they never succeed in being themselves. They never get around to being the particular poet or the particular monk they are intended to be by God. They never become the man or the artist who is called for by all the circumstances of their individual lives. They waste their years in vain efforts to be some other poet, some other saint…They wear out their minds and bodies in a hopeless endeavor to have somebody else’s experiences or write somebody else’s poems.”
from New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton
I spent years trying not to be an introvert. Years pushing myself to be extroverted and to run as fast as the next person. But I couldn’t keep up. And I undervalued my true nature.
I spent years denying my high sensitivity. Years pretending I could do ANYTHING by relying on my own strength. By pushing. Turns out it wasn’t enough. When I gave up, I discovered I only needed strength to do what God had called ME to do. Not what everyone else was called to do. It was freeing. And humbling.
Worse yet, I’ve refused to admit to myself my darker feelings — envy, insecurity, bitterness — even as I plastered on a sweet-as-pie smile. Whew. (Of course, that’s not an exhaustive list of my faults.)
Why is it so hard to be real? Any thoughts?
“We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”
“Unfortunately, in these days of rush and hurry, a novelist works at a disadvantage. He must leap into the middle of his tale with as little delay as he would employ in boarding a moving tramcar. He must get off the mark with the smooth swiftness of a jack-rabbit surprised while lunching. Otherwise, people will throw him aside and go out to picture palaces.”
A Damsel in Distress by P.G. Wodehouse, 1919
Note: “picture palaces” = elaborate movie theatres
Over the weekend, I read Dean Wesley Smith’s Writing into the Dark: How to Write a Novel without an Outline. No doubt, he’s received criticism for his ideas. But I’m not here to add to that.
Smith’s advice runs counter to most books I’ve read. Not only does he recommend writing without an outline, his Rule #3 states that after you’ve finished the first draft, you should not rewrite. Period.
He also says he never rereads his stories after he finishes them.
Yikes! What a terrifying thought! Like choosing a pair of pants and a shirt from your closet with your eyes closed, then leaving the house for a job interview without checking the mirror.
In truth, Smith does reread small segments. His method involves “cycles” of revision. He writes a few hundred words, revises, then writes a few hundred more. He “outlines” as he goes, jotting down a summary of each finished chapter. But he doesn’t know where his story is going. Like Abraham in the Old Testament who left his home “not knowing whither he went.”
Mapping Out the Story
Each day, we live our lives into the unknown. We set goals and make plans to reduce uncertainty, but if we are too dogged with our agenda, we become rigid. Predictable. Boring. And bored.
And this can happen with our writing as well.
I’ve been reading books about story structure, trying oh-so-hard to outline, and using software designed to micromanage my story’s plot, themes, setting, and characters. There’s nothing wrong with approaching the craft this way. It works for a lot of authors.
And yet, I can’t find a compelling reason to keep writing. There’s nothing to explore. I’m bored with the story before I’ve started the rough draft.
Tossing Out the Map
Though I can’t embrace all of Dean Wesley Smith’s recommendations, here are three take-aways from his book:
“Enjoy the Uncertainty”
Replace fear of the unknown with excitement, and enjoy the random ideas that take you — and your readers — to unexpected places.
Don’t forget to have fun! This means playing with a sense of wonder or absurdity:
Your shy, introverted heroine stepped into the bakery for a gluten-free, low-carb, lemon curd Danish, but she robbed the place instead! And the ATM on the corner shot out classified documents instead of cash….
“Think for Yourself”
In D.W.S.’s words:
“All writers write differently. And that includes you. My way of producing words won’t be correct for anyone but me. So instead of listening to others looking for the secret, just go home, sit down at your writing computer, and experiment with every different form and method until you find the way that produces selling fiction that readers like and buy. Find your own way to produce words that sell.”
Writing into the Dark is a counterweight for those who advocate extreme outlining. If you’ve lost your creative spark or your enjoyment of writing, this book is for you.