Last week, I described how I’d lost my first love of writing and what I did to regain it. My efforts began with taking a story-by-story look at how I was writing in “the old days” and comparing it to how I’ve been writing the last few years. I wanted to see what—if anything—had changed and to see what I needed to do to re-ignite a love for writing.
My efforts were geared toward process because I already had some ideas that it was part of the problem.
While that search did reveal some changes in process over the years, it didn’t reveal the whole picture. To be perfectly frank, I’m not sure I still have a complete picture. That seems like something that will have to unfold through the writing process.
But it has led to a better understanding of how I went astray. Including an insight that had nothing at all to do with process.
Who Are You Writing For?
J.R.R. Tolkien wrote his novels for one person. His son, Christopher. I’ve read that whenever Tolkien had to decide what to do next in his stories, he asked one question:
What would Christopher like?
We all know how those stories turned out!
Besides, part of the reason writing for one person is so effective is that you can see how they react to what you’ve written. How do you gauge the reaction of a cat? Impossible!
Okay. Maybe not totally impossible.
The point is that I didn’t have anyone to write for and whose reactions to stories I could gauge just by observing how they responded to new scenes. Identifying an ideal reader is good—I’ve done that—but it’s not the same.
Then, one morning it hit me. I do have someone to write for.
It’s funny how the mind works.
I’d spent nearly a week poring over old stories and support documents.
For every story and document I looked at, I summarized what I’d read. I wrote conclusions. I devised plans of action and identified next steps.
I’d even come to realize a handful of very important things related to my writing process. I felt good about those discoveries and conclusions, but something was still missing.
The Missing Link
On the morning in question, I was thinking about a story no one has ever read. A fantasy about a little girl and a hand-carved wood horse that comes to life. It’s definitely a hobby story. I work on it whenever a scene comes to mind. Usually once or twice a year.
I was pondering the next step in the first installment on that story. Not really putting much effort into the process, but pondering options.
It doesn’t matter what you do. You’re writing this for yourself, right?
The thought was no sooner through my head than a light bulb flashed on. Bingo!
That’s what was missing from the process evaluation I’d just finished.
The every important key. The answer to the 64 million dollar question.
Who am I Writing For?
That may not seem important to you, but for me it was critical. You see, the thing that links all those stories I started and finished before 2007 is that I was writing for myself. I was entertaining myself.
In 2008, I “got serious about writing” and somehow, that decision overwhelmed everything that preceded it. Writing became serious. It was business. It was more than entertainment, at least for me.
The moment I realized I was writing about a wooden horse come to life for myself, was the moment I realized I should be writing every other story for myself. For my own entertainment.
Process is good, but if there’s nothing but process, things get pretty dry pretty fast.
And that’s how my story telling has been the last few years. Point of fact, it’s been the story of my writing life, too—at least when it comes to fiction. Just ask Danielle, who has been my sounding board, a shoulder to cry on (electronically, of course), and one of those who pull me off the writing ledge whenever necessary.
When I finished the process study, I knew what I had to do, but I didn’t know how to do it.
This most recent realization has shown me how to do what I know to do.
And the answer is….
What would Carrie like?