Ignorance stays out of your way

My last post concerned the idea that where you write can affect how you write. This post voices my overwrought opinion that what you know can affect how you write. In other words, sometimes knowledge can hogtie you, where ignorance lets you run free.

I wrote my first novel in six months. Certainly, it needs a deeper edit and, since I’m the only one who’s read it, there’s a good chance some revision is in its future. But still, it’s a whole novel. By contrast my second novel is taking more than twice as long. Why?

Probably the main reason for me, is that I know more about writing now. NO! I know more writing RULES now. When I wrote that first novel, I was just a Reader. I could spell and had a geekish grasp on grammar, but I hadn’t read any how-to-write manuals, or taken any classes or seminars. I just loved reading fiction and making up stories of my own. I usually kept these stories in my head, but occasionally I’d start writing them down. I’d even started a few novels, but never finished one. Then, a chance meeting sparked an idea that I couldn’t shake, and before I knew it, I had started writing another novel. This time the writing was different; the story flowed.

I had a wonderful time writing that book because I didn’t know it was supposed to be hard.

Back then, I wasn’t a Writer. I didn’t know all the rules that now cause me to second guess myself a thousand times a day. I didn’t know only well-published authors are allowed to use adverbs and adjectives and dialogue tags other than said. I didn’t know you should never start a book with a prologue, or with the weather, or that certain things had to happen at page 100, or 200, or whenever. I just wrote the story the way it made sense to me. Oh, how I wish I could write unencumbered like that again.

Now, under the burden of all these rules, I have a hard time letting the story flow. I’ve read some writing tips—underage rules—and tried some of them, but they didn’t work for me. I even tried typing blindfolded, but claustrophobic panic put an end to that.

And if I let myself think about writing the life-or-death query letter, or the number of other writers vying for “my” slot on the release list, or the state of the publishing industry—well, I start to wonder if I shouldn’t do myself a favor by deleting everything in my Writing file and taking up Reading again.

I know it would take awhile to quit editing as I read, but I think I could do it.

Really.

Except, well, there’s this one story idea …

20 thoughts on “Ignorance stays out of your way

  1. This post helped me. Thank you!

    I started reading this post yesterday after struggling for hours (yes, pathetic) to write a single page of rough story draft. I couldn’t relate to everything in your post, because I’ve always (okay, since I was about five) thought story writing is hard.

    The post simply reminded me that I hadn’t kept my promise to focus on “writing down the bones” (in Natalie Goldberg’s words). I was supposed to let myself be free! I’m still writing a rough draft for my current novel; it’s rewriting, but still, rough. I don’t need to think about all the writing “rules” yet.

    A quick trick gave me access to my flow for a brief moment. I considered every nitpicky remark I’d heard from my inner editor that day, rolled the remarks into an imaginary ball, shoved in negative comments I might hear, then threw the ball away. Then I sat down to finish the troublesome page and write about 1,000 more words (4 pages).

    Again, thank you. May your gun paralyze knowledge long enough for creativity to guide you to your next goal.

    Like

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