The Writing Process (this time)

This time, I have little idea where my writing is going. I have some vague notion, but with each chapter, I am surprised. Something happens as I write. A snippet of speech. An image. An action. They are there, already waiting for me, like a message underneath a thick film of dust—everything gray until it gets brushed away. And then…

I have struggled with longer work. My head was always full of plans and themes and rumination. I wanted so much, and could never trust the words—or myself. It was always easier to write short things. They were all fire, and almost extinguished before the fire spread. And perhaps that is how I am writing now. Not worrying about the longer vision (even though it is there). Letting each chapter be its own part.

Of course, as I glance back at the early chapters—which I do only fleetingly, let the rewrite come later, when the whole draft is done—I see that I have changed course, developing  elements that were nascent in the first few chapters. But there! Everything tumbling out unbidden.

Fortunately, I don’t look back too hard. And when I do, I see that I have opened pathways to correct my initial steps and bring them in line with where the work has headed. That happened today. I exclaimed, out loud, when a few students were in my classroom, “I know what to do! It was there the whole time!” And it was. And it is.

Is it writing itself? No. I have to carve out time to work at the thousand word chunks. And it takes work and time. Sometimes the chunks are smaller. Sometimes I skip ahead when I get bogged down, but rarely do a few chapters follow before the way through the snarl becomes at least a little more obvious.

Mostly, I feel as if I can just write into the void. It is like letting go of the bar in trapeze. I trust that the story will catch me—or the net.  And if it is the net, then I know the way back to the slender ladder up to the platform.  Once more, and into the air.

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Brian Brennan

I am a writer and a teacher. I have lived in Philadelphia, Binghamton, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Norfolk, and Northern Virginia. I have sailed on the ocean and flown over the North Pole. I write fiction, poetry, and nonfiction.

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