Living the Story

I think all possible stories exist on a different plane, and we just somehow manage to slip our brains into that plane and see the stories. And some of us are compelled to write them down, maybe to try to save them or maybe to live them.

Does anybody else experience writing this way?

And, of course, the problems come in because the stories on that plane aren’t in written form. They’re in some kind of mind meld format, and as we try to translate them into writing we lose detail, like a really high resolution photograph that your outdated computer only sees as low res, and when you try to make it larger it pixelates (to use a really long metaphor). You color it in as well as you can, try to smooth the edges and fill in missing colors.

So the challenge is to see as much as possible about the story while you’re in that plane and then keep the memory vivid so you can refer to it when you’re not in that plane, because you can’t walk around immersed in it all the time and expect to keep your day job. I suppose an independently wealthy person or one whose books were earning plenty of money could be immersed in it 24/7, but then you’ve got a very unbalanced life, and isn’t it possible to have both the writing and the living?

But then writing is a kind of living, or should be. My problems come from the times I spend just watching in that plane and forgetting the details as soon as I emerge, so that the story’s really at my mercy out here in the real world. When I go there and step into the flow of the story, let it wash all over me—when I live it—that’s when I know the story well enough that later I can not just refer back to a photograph of a character but feel around in her pockets for all those critical details.

So the question is, as always, how do I not just get to that plane but let go of myself and feel the story happen?

I know it’s the same thing every writer thinks about, because it’s just not easy to do. Writing anything—a blog, for example, or a journal entry—helps me finger the edges of it, and sometimes I can slip in from that small hand-hold. But, I swear, other times I could use a jackhammer and get nowhere.

I know having the right food helps a lot of people, but it’s not enough. Music can help more, for me at least. Doing it in the middle of the night when everyone in the house is asleep helps a lot, especially when combined with a hot pot of coffee. But I have yet to find a sure-fire way to get there. I’d love to hear how other people manage it.

But even more than that, I want to know how people let go of themselves once they get there. My ability to do that is so fragile. The mere energy of another person awake in the house can destroy it. At the same time, sometimes the connection to the story is so strong that an actual interruption, like having to take the dog out, doesn’t weaken it. So, what do I do differently those times when it’s really strong and I’m fully there? I don’t have a clue.

Has anyone discovered the key to this? Or a lock pick? Credit card? Anything? How do you move beyond watching the story?



Filed under Uncategorized, writers, writing

2 responses to “Living the Story

  1. I know, I agree, the most important thing is to just sit down every day (or as oten as possible) and just write no matter whether you’re connected or not. Just keep banging away, as you say.

    When I was younger, I would spend most of my free time daydreaming about the story, and I bet that’s really valuable time spent, but now with a day job I don’t have that luxury. Maybe I could try to find down times at work and sort of scribble about the novel, keep my mind processing it as frequently as possible.

    Thank you for your comments, Brett, I appreciate them. They’re sort of…grounding! Do you have a blog?

  2. Brett James Irvine

    It’s similar for me (I wouldn’t quite describe it as you have) in that when I write a story, the story tells itself through my writing. I write as it goes along and the story just flows and comes up with itself.

    For me, the key is to just get lost in the writing of it. I spend most of the rest of my free time daydreaming in the story, but when I sit down in front of my laptop to write, I just keep writing and once I’m in the flow the story just pours out. Sometimes I can finish a 7K short story in a sitting, sometimes it takes me weeks to get there.

    The most important step for me is to just sit down in front of that laptop and start banging away on the keys.

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