Catching the Express Train from Point A to Point B

My sister has a really cool blog called Writer.Mom where she writes about motherhood and writing and the many connections she finds between the two. I haven’t been inspired to blog in forever, and her blog got me thinking that I should do sort of an homage post to get back into it. I’m not a mother, but I think day to day life has connections to writing no matter your place in life.

I’ve been thinking about this because writing is always sort of a cathartic, fulflilling act for me. It always makes me feel productive, excited, and relaxed.

Today it didn’t. I’m working on a novel that is to be my thesis for a master’s degree. I got through the first draft ok and have been spending the summer doing research and figuring out how I want to shape the novel in the second draft. I’ve gotten started on the prologue, which includes a story within a story.

The first few pages went well, but today I was working on the story within the story and nothing was working. I moved parts, I cut parts, I added parts and it just seemed to get more and more cluttered no matter what I did. I wanted to quit, but I couldn’t stop because I can never stop until I figure out how to smooth things out. But nothing was working and there was no fix in sight.

Normally when something doesn’t work I try something completely different. But I’ve tried many approaches and now I know that this is the beginning of the novel. The novel depends on this story to set the tone, the world of the novel, the characters, everything. I couldn’t give up on it because everything that comes after it depends upon it.

And then I realized that the reason the story felt cluttered no matter what I did was because, guess what? It was cluttered with too much information. Surprise! I struggle with short stories and always tend to give my plots too much room to breathe, and I was doing it again. That’s why I’m working on a novel now. I never expected to struggle with keeping things brief in a novel, but that is exactly what I realized I needed to do.

When I began rewriting I was excited to include all of my research, but it just felt clunky. So I realized that the story within the story needed to lead from point A to point B quickly to advance the overall plot of the novel. I love to make things complicated, and I was doing that with the two page story within the story. It had subplots, the subplots had subplots, and the central conflict was the result of multiple dilemmas. It was just too complicated.

So I cut out the complications, figured out how A led to B, and then tied it all up. It’s not perfect, but it’s something I feel comfortable enough with now to revise tomorrow and then move on from there.

And how does art imitate life in this situtation? Well, it’s simple: Keep it simple. Keep it concise and clear.

I’ve always been more thoughtful than emotional and I’ve been trying to learn to follow my heart over the past few years. Recently my heart led me to quit my job and move to Canada. Now my life is split between countries, I’m looking for a job, and my future seems both limitless and impossible. I need to learn from my writing frustration which is probably mirroring my real life frustration of being unemployed and making a new beginning from scratch. I need to keep things simple. To focus on one thing at a time and be at peace with the fact that sometimes it’s better if point A goes directly to point B with no deviations in between.

3 thoughts on “Catching the Express Train from Point A to Point B

  1. This is so important to hold in mind. I struggle with the need for simplicity and the tendency toward clutter every day, both in physical and mental terms. Thanks for expressing this so thoughtfully and powerfully.

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