I’m a perfectionist, but I also hate to throw things away that might be useful later. The perfectionist in me tends to want to discard anything that isn’t useful, the creator in me tends to want to make something useful out of scraps.
Over the years I have learned to find a balance between these two, and thankfully so. In my writing there are times, especially beginning a book, that I will struggle to get started. There isn’t a big mystery here for me, as I wrote last week about requiring more effort to start something moving than to keep it moving.
As I write I build parts of the world I could never have sitting down and outlining, no matter how much time I spend at it. I also have serious trouble outlining very far ahead in a story as the story builds itself in part as I write it. I recognize this, and so I cannot predict accurately enough what should be in the outline, I can only touch on road signs I want to hit along the way.
What I have come to learn the more I write, is that I will not get the first few pages right the first time. Not only do I not have the world developed enough in my head before I write, but I also don’t know what pace the story will have until I begin to write it.
I may plan for a scene to have certain pace, but as I write the previous I will feel a flow in my writing. I do not try to change the flow to match my previous ideals of what I thought should be the pace, I allow the story to show me what pace it should have.
Carvers and sculptors often speak about seeing what the medium holds, and simply revealing that shape. This can be explained as a science of the veteran artist seeing many cracks, thin spots, etc. and their mind forming a shape to accommodate that. But that does not allow for what the artist can’t see. The same can be said for writing.
A writer can’t see all of what a story will be from an outline. And outline is only a surface to sketch what shape you feel should form within the story. Every word a writer writes is akin to every chip of a chisel or cut if a blade. The exact shape will not be known until every word is written.
Luckily we writers aren’t as restricted as sculptors. We can ball up the paper, or delete the bits and bytes of information.
So far every beginning I have done this. At least once pages I have written get sent to file 13. But as I delete these words, I build an understanding of the world I will write in, I feel the beat of the story. And so in short order I find the pulse of the story I will bring to life.
If I held onto a fear of losing what I had created, I would never give it a chance to show me its perfection.