The Metaphor – Taking Out the Middleman

I wonder if all or most writers have a metaphor for the process of writing. I’ve heard various expressions of it. Listening to the muse. Running out, grabbing the muse, and making her sit down and do the work at gunpoint. Stephen King’s guys in the basement.

It seems that one of the hardest parts of writing is getting yourself out of the way. Your ego, your worries, your feelings about whether it’s going to be good or not. All that is a dam in the way of the creative flow. One of the ways to get through, past or over the dam is to have a metaphor–to fool your brain into thinking that it’s not really YOU doing the writing, the work comes through you somehow. Holly Lisle calls it ‘writing in flow’ and it’s absolutely necessary for me.

My metaphor was expressed earlier in this blog: standing on the streetcorner, trying not to look too eager, waiting for a character to sidle up and tell me his story. That’s what works for me.

What do you do?


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. John Wolf
    Sep 02, 2008 @ 18:56:43

    My method of writing starts with a title (I used to be a songwriter, so that’s natural). I have to have a premise to write a story, but that’s not a problem since every day or two lightning strikes me and I write down the message from the angel in my possible stories file. I then construct a scene, some kind of place, a stage if you will, to run the characters around on. By this time the main character is apparent. I love names, so the name has to fit the character. What is happening here is a building layer-by-layer process. The burst of writing is exciting for me. I go until I hit a fork in the road at neck break speed. Diet Dr. Pepper with pomegranate juice – my idea of a health drink, fuels the process. Oh, and Snicker bars.

    This fork usually has a boogieman in the woods with a bead drawn on me. I sometimes have to pause and contemplate a lot of navels to break the spell by outlining possible outcomes. By this time I’m in another world. The story has sprung a life of its own. The story owns me and I just try to hang on.

    I love the computer, because of the instant access to many references. If I hit a wall and don’t know what something is or the “real” definition of a word or who Mary Queen of Scot’s husband was – that sort of thing. I start the Wiki-this-or-that until I have a million Notepad files of information. Probably enough for several more stories, but we must be disciplined and return to job one.

    It takes me about four months to write 70,000 words and do a couple of rewrites. Six months tops. I don’t go beyond that size because if you self-publish, the cost of the book gets too high.

    I don’t write and drive at the same time. I don’t own a cell phone, and the kids in my family are gone and married off, so the distractions, are as you say, all my own doing. The last story I put in the can, since it’s not published yet, I’ve been sitting on it to see if something else will hatch. I have a couple of folks reading it for a reaction. It’s like water witching to see if a spring can be found. This time, I got so antsy; I started another story and am about two-thirds of the way through it.

    I find it a pleasurable diversion to get interrupted, because it’s not healthy to spend so much time at a computer. I never worry about coming back to it later. I’ve even stopped in mid-sentence and come back a day later and picked up where I left off. In fact, these stories can become a neurotic issue, invading my dreams or instead of humming in the shower, I’ll stand there staring at the wall in another world planning out how the next chapter is going to go. It’s like a seizure.

    I don’t know if this rattletrap is of any use to anyone, but it is my typical pattern. I can’t storyboard a plot and have it work. I have to let the story talk to me, like a refugee that just crossed over a wall from a war torn region, staring up in desperation – you gotta believe me. Of course I do, I amaze easy. I’ll listen to any demented muse.

    John Wolf
    Author of Fantastic Tales

  2. asherose
    Sep 03, 2008 @ 08:39:49

    Thank you! That’s a lot of different metaphors at once… I’m glad to hear they work for you. I tend to be similar about names and titles being very inspirational. 🙂

  3. bets
    Sep 03, 2008 @ 09:57:20

    I don’t really have a metaphor for writing, though I guess I just wrote one on my blog about a tsunami…

    Process wise–I don’t draft until I have a synopsis and an ending. That is the discipline that forces me to follow through in a timely manner.

  4. asherose
    Sep 03, 2008 @ 15:23:03

    That makes sense. Whatever works! 🙂

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