Don't force it, but use the force

March 16, 2013

I have been writing a lot of code lately, and my fiction and journals have suffered. However, a break is not always bad. Perspective and some fresh air are crucial to moving in the right direction. I took the time away to have a healthy, honest conversation with my muse.

First of all, she is beautiful, so whatever she says is correct. What is changing for me is the intended output of my writing work. I have been building toward a novel idea (which has since fallen to a more realistic set of writings/stories/essays) and I have been desperate for some kind of meaning in my work. I thought I could force it. I wanted to write essays with big, sweeping titles, like "Death," or "Life," or "Love." I wanted to make remarkable points that people knew but had never articulated, or bring some perspective they'd never considered.

This, according to my muse, was nobel, but also naive, ridiculous, and cliché. Writing is about writing what you know, about identifying yourself and what you feel about things, about using your own life to figure out how a few things work. If you're lucky, foraging through the wilderness of your own head will lead to an oasis or mapping of some kind, and a good writer can bring this information back to the world.

I've written and thought about the importance of journaling before, and will continue to do so, but I need to focus on it in a new way. I have been too objective and factual, as opposed to emotional or questioning. I need to be more honest.

My writing up to this point has been about writing stories. It's been plot-driven. It's been about what happens to people, usually something ridiculous, in a world that is arbitrary. It has rarely been about why things happen, or how it impacts these people. It hasn't been about emotion. The characters haven't been real, they've been empty bodies with lines of dialogue filling roles in a story that's already been outlined.

I'm going in a new direction for a while. I'm going to journal about things I've experienced, and be honest about them. I'm going to get in touch with the world I'm in now, the one I'm experiencing, rather than building ones out of arbitrary little ideas. There is so much to tap into in the world around us, if we're open to it.

I'm also hoping to start attacking some writing prompts on a regular basis, for more practice putting words together. I'm taking Figment prompts and I'm going to write some things at Medium, a blogging tool from the Twitter guys. Very likely the stories will appear Under a Well. This is a step away from my 100-worders, which I've neglected for a time, but I need something a little bit more free-form.

Write on, writers.

Russell Matney

Russell Matney

Writing, Stories, Software, Indie Games


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