Getting Lost In Our Stories is What Brings Them to Life

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I’ve just always been a storyteller. Storybooks and fairytales were never quite enough to satisfy my sense of adventure and curiosity when I was younger. So like many children do, at some point I just started making up my own stories.

Imagination has no limits. I could think up any series of events I wanted, and it was so real to me, almost like it was really happening.

Then, probably through all those essays we had to learn to write in middle school, I discovered that like playing with my Barbie dolls or Beanie Babies, like drawing pictures, I could take the stories circling around in my head and bring them to life, through putting words onto a page.

When you’re so young, and you’re just starting to figure out how to piece together a story with a plot, characters, and some kind of beginning, middle and end, it doesn’t matter that you’re not writing very well. No 10-year-old is going to write a story without making mistakes, leaving plot holes, sometimes maybe not even really including a plot at all.

So when I say I’ve been telling stories for forever, I’m not at all implying I’ve always been good at it (or even that I can be good at it now). Refining writing skills literally takes years. I just never gave up, and kept writing even though I knew I wasn’t the best, kept writing, even though I knew my parents and teachers were probably just being polite with their compliments.

Kept writing, even though deep down I knew I might never be good enough.

Then one day, some day, I learned how to get lost.

Not lost in the grocery store (thank God) or lost in a crowd, but lost in a story. So drawn into what you’re writing in the present that it pulls you right out of where you’re sitting and you find yourself in a completely different time and place.

It doesn’t happen every time you sit down to write. Sometimes you do have to sit back and really think about what you’re doing, where you’re going with this, whether or not you need to keep that.

But every once in a while, when you start an ongoing chain of dialogue or there’s an intense scene ahead of you, something happens. You almost watch the events as they begin to play out on the page. You can almost here the characters speak their “lines” in your head. You are there, in that moment. You are in two places at once: at the control booth of the story, and part of it, simultaneously.

It’s hard to come back. But when that scene ends, or someone or something interrupts, you always do. I don’t know about you, but I very rarely want to. I don’t write to escape, but every now and again, it’s a nice perk, isn’t it?

No, when I’m writing a funeral scene, I don’t wish I was there. When I’m writing about grief, I don’t wish it upon myself, too—but you get swept up in what’s happening, before you even realize. So whether happy or sad, intense or gradually building up to it, you’re committed to getting pulled into everything, without warning.

But when we get lost like that, something else happens: we stop second-guessing ourselves. It’s easier to see what’s the most realistic thing that will happen next. It’s easier to engage in a stream of consciousness so deep that even if we consider for a second whether it was a good idea for Character X to say that, it’s already gone, and we just let it be.

That’s how you know you’re okay. That you’re not going to hit a wall anytime soon. That your story is there, somewhere deep inside you, it just has to come out in pieces. It takes a little writing, a little resting, and then some more writing (and repeat).

Is it always the best work we can do? No. Maybe it never is.

But in those moments we let the ideas run the show, that’s when it comes to life for real.

And I would not give that up for anything. Ever.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Flickr.

A recent graduate with a B.A. in English and a completed major in nutrition, currently seeking a graduate degree in health communication, Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and dietetics. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist and Grammar Nazi (and the mastermind behind this site), Meg is an editor for College Lifestyles magazine and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine’s Stone Soup.  She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has written several creative pieces for Teen Ink magazine. Follow Meg on Twitter.

Five Reminders that Writing Is Still Worth It

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Sometimes you get tired.

Sometimes you just want to give up.

Sometimes you wonder why you keep writing, even when it never seems to pay off.

Here are five moments to help remind you it’s still worth it. Every single word.

1. Brain Rush

The term “brain crack” has already been coined, but brain rush is my own take on the same concept. I don’t know about you, but when I get an idea, I don’t just get one idea. Ideas come to me one right after the other, in a rush (the inspiration for my post about idea insomnia). Sometimes I have to stop what I’m doing and get them down in the Notes app on my phone just to slow my heart rate.

I don’t know about you, but this feeling is what I live for. It reminds me that creativity is part ambition, part experience. But mostly, creativity is latching onto ideas as they spontaneously form inside your head and refusing to let go.

2. Writing Something You’re Proud Of

A lot of the time I’m hesitant to promote my own work. I still do it, because I love being able to share my work with others with the hope they’ll gain something from reading what I have to say. But every once in a while I’ll write a sentence or a paragraph or even a whole chapter, and sit back and let myself be proud.

It’s a difficult thing for “down-to-earth” writers to do. But I think part of the process is learning that the more confident you are in your accomplishments, and the more you’re willing to recognize that you can do good work and it’s for a good reason, that’s when you know your career is far from over, even if it hasn’t really started yet. 

3. Solving a Mystery

I’m going to do an entire post on this concept, because I pulled a quote from yesterday’s post and sort of fell in love with it (see? Learning to appreciate my own words, and hoping I’m not coming off the wrong way in doing so). The idea is that to come up with a way to work backwards. You know the ending; you have to figure out how to lead your readers up to that ending. In doing this, you have to solve your own mysteries, figure out the internal complexities, make it all work somehow.

There’s this moment, every now and then: you’ve either inserted a small detail but are debating removing it or you have a good ending but don’t know how your characters get from point A to point B. Every once in awhile, the solution just clicks. “I figured it out,” you say to yourself. It’s hard to explain, but the sense of achievement is almost tangible.

4. Compliments and Criticism

You’re never going to please everyone, no matter how diverse you make your characters, themes, genres or motifs. There are always going to be readers who enjoy your work and those who don’t. Some will tell you how they feel. Some won’t.

I appreciate both. I appreciate when someone lets me know I’m doing a good job and when someone says “I wish you would do this.” To me, any commentary is constructive. It means I’m saying something that moves people to respond. I don’t write to gain followers. (It’s nice, but if I only had 10, I’d be just as content as I am right now.) I write to build community. To start conversations. No matter the type of feedback, knowing I’m reaching someone and it means something, that’s more rewarding than any number of subscribers could ever be.

5. Completing a Finished Draft

If you’ve experienced the combined relief and anticipation that accompanies finishing the first draft of a writing project, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, let that be your motivation to keep going. It’s the moment you sit back and realize all your hard work wasn’t all for nothing. It’s the moment you decide, “Well, I’ve made it this far. I want to see how much further I can take it.”

It’s not the same as finishing a big paper for school or a long-term assignment at work. If writing isn’t your full-time job, no one is forcing you to do it. That means every word you write is your choice. And knowing you’ve put in maybe years worth of an effort toward something you’ve motivated yourself to complete … I can honestly say that’s one of the most rewarding parts of writing stories on my own.

It’s been along time since I’ve experienced #5. But I can’t wait to experience it again.

Writing is your passion.

You were born to do this.

It’s still worth it. Your words still matter.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

A recent graduate with a B.A. in English and a completed major in nutrition, currently seeking a graduate degree in health communication, Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and dietetics. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist and Grammar Nazi (and the mastermind behind this site), Meg is an editor for College Lifestyles magazine and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine’s Stone Soup.  She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has written several creative pieces for Teen Ink magazine. Follow Meg on Twitter.