From Bonnie Doerr, author of Island Sting
And so you ask, how do I get beyond rough spots in the writing process…
I often, too often, reread a passage of my work and freak out at the crude writing I have done. I wrote better stuff than this in high school. Other times I’m fearful of the blank, blinding–white screen daring me to mar its purity with my feeble thoughts. At moments like these I used to fold the top down on my keyboard in misery, only to wander around the house muttering, whining, and frantically searching for chocolate. One day the worst kind of disaster struck. Not a crumb of chocolate to be found.
Just in time, a revelation! I found cocoa in the cabinet. A cup of hot chocolate used to cheer me as a child. I reached for one of my treasured pottery pieces. This chocolate needed heavy duty backup to lighten my spirits. This chocolate needed presentation. This chocolate must be enhanced by the sensual feel and look of a unique, handmade work of art. No ordinary cloned mug was up to the task.
That day I devised the vision that now rescues me from paralyzing despair when my work is drivel or worse. I think about potters. The ceramic artist begins with bags, buckets, or handfuls of particles that to anyone else look like nothing more than rock fragments and dirt. One might think the artist is preparing to play in a sandbox. And in a way, play is what it’s all about. The artist messes with these materials, adding water and whatever other bits of clay, sand, or minerals are needed. And when the mixture feels right, step by step the ceramicist brings a vision to life.
The clay must be worked well, pounded, rolled, slapped around a bit until it is consistent. Then it is pulled, turned, carved, pinched, rearranged. Sometimes again and again until it nearly matches the potter’s vision. Pieces are torn or cut off. Others are added. It sits and rests, not forgotten, but maintained. The dream rests, then the artist returns to the work with renewed vision.
I think of the potters I have known to push me through rough spots in the work of writing. Think of it as play, not work, I tell myself. If a ceramicist can create a miracle out of such humble beginnings, I can play with my own raw materials. The potter doesn’t expect the first mix of materials to be perfect. A potter doesn’t assume each step of the creation will go perfectly. The potter expects much shaping, trimming, and reworking of a piece. She or he even knows that, after the piece is shaped, dried, and the final touches of glaze added, it could blow up in the kiln. Why should I not accept the same insecurities? Why don’t I look at it all as clay?
If I put drivel on a page, why should it send me screaming as if I’ve lost my way? Rather, I must look at those weak words and phrases as the raw material of my craft. I should be grateful that I have already procured my raw materials. They are there for me to shape, trim, rearrange, and pour on the glaze. And hope it doesn’t all blow up in end. But if it does? Well, there are plenty of raw materials for the next play period. Why should I fear the blank page? My raw materials are free and much easier to acquire than those of the potter. I always have them near. I don’t even need technology. Letters, words, thoughts. Put them on the page. Mix them up. Trim the excess. It’s all in the art of play. A lousy bit of writing? A blank page? No problem. These are simply the raw material from which a vision can be shaped.
I believe this. I do. I really do. I believe. I believe. I believe.
Island Sting by Bonnie Doerr is out NOW! For more information click here!
I want to thank Bonnie and Leap Books for giving me this opportunity to post this in Read Read Read.