Discovering the Big Things

Do you ever feel like the things you are writing don’t mean a thing? I’m 500 words into a story, I’ve used all my punchlines, and the two main characters are standing in an elevator wondering who is supposed to speak first. Meanwhile, neither one remembered to press a button. The story is in limbo.

I hate that moment. I want to write something that means something. I want people to read it and say “Yes. YES. Exactly this.” Up until now, I’ve been ok with, “Yeah, I liked it, it was good.” Now I want to move up to the Big Leagues.

What’s it take in the Big Leagues? Here’s what I thought: You have to know what your story is saying. So, baby steps. What do I want to say? Who am I? What do I care about? What do I want people to know or think or realize?

I realized I had no idea.

This was a problem. No opinions? No thoughts? I thought I had thoughts. What the hell have I been writing about?

First I tried to make up some thoughts, and run with them. That didn’t quite work, but it did help my writing.

I read and read and read. I explored classics I hadn’t touched (Orwell’s 1984 and HG Wells’ The Time Machine). I found my tastes pointing towards short stories by Vonnegut, Keret, and Gaiman, which I now LOVE. I also took inspiration from big picture moments like this one from Synecdoche, New York and similar ones in Lost in Translation and Adaptation. This exposure has been super helpful, and I am seeking more and more.

That wasn’t enough. The ideas were great, but none were mine. I was studying the Big Leagues, but not playing with them.

I bought a number of books on writing, as recommended by a few blogs, including this one. Now I have the good old “On Writing/Why I Write” by Hemmingway, Henry Miller, Stephen King, George Orwell, (soon) Ray Bradbury, and a few more about reading like a writer. I haven’t read them yet, but I will be blogging about them soon, here.

Now, NaNoWriMo is coming up. I participated in it last year. I enjoyed it and loved the productivity, but I was unhappy with my rambling piece of junk. Sure, the writing was fine, but the story… I’m not doing that again. No, this year, I have a great premise and I’m going to make something of it.

Here’s the next plan: I’m going on a journey. In the next 10 days, a crash course. I need to discover my writer-self and some meaning. I’m going to sit and free write, stream of consciousness, on a number of what I now call The Big Things. Love, Hate, Life, Death, Pleasure, Pain, Joy, Sorrow, Emotion, etc. Anything Big.

Back on the elevator, I join my characters. I hit the emergency stop button. Sorry guys. We’re not getting off until we figure this out.