A recent question from a relative left Donna Joy Usher thinking, where does writing come from?
A young relative recently asked me how to write a novel. I laughingly told him to start at the beginning and write until you came to the end. Then I got serious and dove deep into an in-depth, one-sided discussion, involving character and plot development, use of dialogue and beats, black moments and high points, structural editing and the beginning, middle and end parts of the book. Finally I said something that – I could see by the sudden light in his eyes – made sense. In a moment of clarity I summed up writing a book like drawing a picture. I said to him that the first draft of a book was like the first sketch of a painting – a rough outline with lots of work left in it.
The discussion left me exhausted and him confused, but it did make me think – where does writing come from?
I know what you’re thinking – this chick calls herself a writer and she can’t even structure a sentence correctly. But I fear you have misunderstood me. I’m not talking about the act of writing, the putting of pen to paper; I’m talking about the quintessential art of writing. Where do the words, the ideas, come from?
Wikopedia defines writing as the representation of language in a textual medium through the use of a set of signs or symbols. This is a little more descriptive than the American Heritage Dictionary – the art of someone who writes. Both of these leave me cold and neither suggests there is any joy to be had from writing. So I have decided to come up with my own definition and to do this I must analyse where writing comes from.
I know most of my ideas come when I’m not even thinking about writing; often waking from a dream, desperate to pen words before they are lost forever. Sometimes it’s when I’m exercising and my mind is free to wander. Inspirations for characters have come like bolts of lightning while watching video clips whose music I couldn’t hear. Anything at any time can give me an idea I can use to enrich my writing.
Most of my writing block problems come not from a lack of creative thoughts but more from a loss of direction. I get so carried away in the story that I forget to work out the plot. Sounds silly I know, but I have to have all my scenes mapped out on system cards or my mind refuses to write; a bit like a horse balking at a fence. And yet my good friend and fellow author, Kristy Berridge, says that she writes from beginning to end: the story flowing out of her in a torrent while she struggles to keep up with it. Does that mean I am less talented? Or does it just mean that my mind works in a different way?
I have heard many hypotheses on the causes of inspiration. One writer I was in a workshop with swears blind that she was woken by the ghost of a long dead writer and told to write the story she was currently working on. Others say they have a muse sitting on their shoulder giving them ideas. When my characters have said or done things even I didn’t know they were going to, I have contemplated a higher being, whispering me a tale already written in another plane of existence.
If you pressed me though, I would say, firstly I think writing comes from our subconscious. (Sometimes, a bit like making soup, I throw in a few ideas, give them a stir and then let them simmer. Eventually the ideas I need float to the surface.) But I also believe there is something more to it than that: some type of creative magic, allowing us to conjure words into visions, and ideas into story lines. Writers have created characters so real we feel we know them; invented worlds so amazing we want to live in them and woven stories so evocative that even though they are fiction they can change our lives. So lastly I would have to say that writing comes from the heart.
So here it is – my personal definition of writing.
Writing – the magical, loving, subconscious art of turning ideas and inspiration into stories that will hold the imagination of the world.
Tara Babcock awakes the morning after her 30th birthday with a hangover that could kill an elephant – and the knowledge she is still no closer to achieving closure on her marriage breakup. Things go from bad to worse when she discovers that, not only is her ex-husband engaged to her cousin – Tash, the woman he left her for – but that Jake is also running for Lord Mayor of Sydney. Desperate to leave the destructive relationship behind and with nothing to lose, she decides- with encouragement from her three best friends – to follow the dubious advice from a magazine article, Closure in Seven Easy Steps. The Seven Steps to Closure follows Tara on her sometimes disastrous- always hilarious – path to achieve the seemingly impossible.