So, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how storytelling occurs for me. I know there are writers that plot everything out and pantser writers, who write by the seat of their pants. My conclusion is that I’m am an extreme pantser writer.
Since March this year I’ve wanted to write a particular story and started and restarted it several times and just was never satisfied. Finally, I stepped away from the effort of writing entirely, calling it writer’s block. It took a few weeks to actually let go of the mental struggle of searching for the right direction for the story.
Thankfully summer weather rolled in and I took an extended summer vacation, truly letting go of the story. Then a remarkable thing happened. On August 10th a one-sentence idea came about a woman who escapes a bad relationship and returns to her roots to find God and peace. That was it. Than was all I had. But it was intriguing and I wrote about the night she left. I had no idea where this story would go. It was not a story I had thought about before. By chapter two the woman was in South Carolina, and I’ve been immersed, nearly living in South Carolina for the last three or four weeks. The story truly has taken its own shape and path. I had no intention for certain things to occur, yet they did.
In my inevitable introspection, I’ve been thinking about my writing process – about how everything but my body becomes lost in the story, my life fading around me. It’s like when you go to a great movie and you escape your world for a couple of hours – only I’ve escaped for weeks. I find it odd to be so immersed then pull myself out to deal with life around me – like I’m living two lives.
And the other stunning thing for me is how the story can absolutely pour out. It flows with little rework, and yet it has tie-backs, intriguing symbolic connections and themes that just seem to naturally develop without much intention. Fifty thousand words in a month seems astounding when I couldn’t get the other story off the ground in several months. The whole writing experience totally fascinates me.
Part of the story involves a town-sponsored beach barbecue that opens with Neil Diamond’s song Sweet Caroline and I’ve subsequently watched several of his concert videos from the 70s. I found his lyrics to reach me deeply. Between the words and music I find he’s keenly aware and articulate of the angst and loneliness of the human existence. He’s honest about his thoughts of this life – that we all live alone in our minds yet we all seek to soothe the emptiness with the companionship of others. I found the music and lyrics to I Am…I Said particularly poignant and moving. Even though the video was from 1971, I still watched it several times.
And there’s Play Me, a song that subtly expresses the lonely longing of a man hoping to rid himself of the emptiness in the arms of a woman. And yet, while his heart sang and beautiful words sprang from him in the night, there’s still an aching loneliness throughout. This cry echoes in my heart. I too have known this loneliness. People everywhere, yet alone. Alone until God that is, but I still know and understand the deep feeling expressed.
I don’t know about other people, but I typically discover a song I like, and if I feel the lyrics emotionally stirring, then I want to watch the artist’s facial expression as they sing to have another door into their soul.
Anyway, I came across what I think was Neil’s first interview about himself and was fascinated with his thoughts on writing, the added dimension of music and his emotional lyrics. Here are a few things he said from that interview that really resonated with me (Thank You Australia interview 1976).
“Well, writing best happens when it needs to happen. Writing comes at the least predictable moments…when it doesn’t want to come it’s very difficult. I can write something when I have to write something, but its not that very special thing. I much prefer to write when it comes and to leave myself open, to leave my schedule open so that when I feel like writing everything else ceases because writing is first for me…and its a good feeling a very up feeling. When I feel like writing everything else stops. I write.
“Writing songs, I found it to be much more satisfying [than poetry] because the music adds a dimension that purely words cannot even begin to touch. Music goes directly to the soul.
“I am [an emotional person], but in very specific times. I’m mostly emotional when I’m writing music. I tend to let my emotions go freely when I’m writing and to keep them very much in containment when I’m doing other things.”
Wow! This expresses what I feel. Now I’ve found at least one other person who experiences the artistic endeavour in a way similar to me. I’m not so different after all.
I still don’t understand how the story forms itself in my head. I still have to deal with leaving my world behind for weeks while the story comes, and emotionally living through the heartaches and angst of the people in the story. I feel I’ve lived for weeks as another person, suffering and celebrating with them. And I’m unable to leave that person and their life until the story comes to its conclusion. Perhaps it’s a good thing these stories don’t come back to back 🙂
How do the stories flow – where do they come from for you?
Share your thoughts!