Saturday, October 01, 2011

KidLit Quote of the Week #3

As I continue working on my YA historical novel, this quote speaks to me:

"Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep."

I've been in full-on flow several times with this book, writing down a path I didn't mean to take — a luxury I don't normally indulge in during write-for-hire work. (NO time in that process for anything but 1-2-3 get it done.) And often I worry as I go that I will have to completely scrap whatever detour passage I've written.

This is not in the outline, I tell myself. It doesn't fit in and I shouldn't be writing this knowing I'll delete it later. Or worse, I realize, Aackk, this is better than what I'd planned and now I'll have to reshape everything else (deleting other baby passages) to accommodate it.

It's so tempting to think of text swaths you change or cut as mistakes. But one of the most important thing I've tried to internalize in surrendering to the "vomit draft" process this year is that whatever you're writing — good crap, bad crap, ugly crap, crap-crap — the THING is *that* you are writing. The rest will take care of itself if you let it (aka doing more writing + careful revising).

It can be hard to look at a first draft and especially to show parts of it even to the most supportive of readers without wanting to shake everyone (read in this case: wanting to shake myself) until you know they know this is your early writing, that you intend to get it all "right" during revisions. But once you do it, the looking at it turns into one of the most satisfying steps — with the fixing-it part probably more more fun than anything else.

So, while I see and agree with Adams's POV, I do take issue with calling anything (or any part of anything) you create a mistake. There are no creative mistakes, people!

Is it a mistake to add too many stems to the vase? No. You can't tell exactly how many flowers fit just so until you throw some into the arrangement and step back for a look-see. You can't determine the perfect way to display the ready-made art you bought until you slap a few configurations onto the wall and take a few distanced ganders. You can't make a satisfying pot of soup without tasting and reseasoning . . .

And you can't really craft your story until you write what wants to come out and let all the pieces show you — by being on point, off track, or seamlessly fitted — what to pitch and what to keep.

Now, off I go to write some stuff I might just end up trashing later. (And, reminder note to self: You will trash it, and you will like it.)