Tuesday, January 4, 2011

In Search of a Dream

Is the presence of longing inside a writer’s heart essential to writing fiction? Is the faint melancholia created by things we wish for, dream of, what puts the magic into make-believe?

Those questions have been prodding at my subconscious for some time now. The prod turned into a painful jolt when, after a summer of not writing fiction, I attempted my third NaNo in a row – and did not complete the required 50,000 words.

To tell the truth, I completed barely 5,000 words. I still don’t know quite what was wrong. I sat at the keyboard for hours. I allowed myself to leap between plots. I allowed myself to write endings before I wrote beginnings! But nothing worked. Words appeared on the screen, crafted strings of emotionless sentences, crisp-edged two-dimensional characters without character.

The spark wasn’t there.

At the time I attributed it to lack of time, to the stress of everyday life, to pregnancy hormones. Yet none of that ever affected my writing before… (okay, I haven’t been PREGNANT before, but you know)

Now I’m wondering if my life has become a little too full. Instead of a rather uneventful life that I spiced up by constantly spinning tales of adventure and romance, I started to live all those things I dreamed about. Now, I have a husband (who I’m very much in love with), a baby on the way (who is wanted very very much), multiple jobs, college, travel… I don’t have time to dream!

And is that the problem?

I pose the question to you all reading this. Has this happened to you? Do you think writers’ best work is influenced by what’s happening (or what’s not happening) in their lives? Or (as many great writers believe) should good fiction be utterly unconnected to circumstances in writers’ lives?

Share your thoughts, please! I’m eager to read them!

(oh yes, and if anyone has suggestions for how to overcome a fiction dry spell…please do not refrain from suggesting!)


Kate said...

Just write! I had that this summer, too, because I was in either in pain, doing school, or cleaning. In the fall, I just wrote whatever came to mind. *hugs*

Elisabeth said...

Interesting thoughts there! I don't know if there's really one answer to any of those questions. A lot of great writers' stories and characters are so utterly different from their own lives. Yet I don't think it's possible to keep everything of yourself from getting into your writing. I recognize certain emotions and opinions of my own in characters who don't resemble me in any other way, which I wasn't aware I'd put into them while I was writing.

I certainly understand what you mean about dreaming. I can't imagine life without that extra spark of the imaginary. And I think I've used my writing world as a kind of escape from difficult situations in real life - I'm not sure yet whether that's a good thing or not. :)

But anyway, I wouldn't get discouraged about the dry spells. I've had them - we all have them. And while you're in the middle there doesn't appear to be any way out. But whether you need a break, or additional inspiration, or just to wait until you have more time to think, you do get past them if you really want to. For me, reading is always a help. Reading a good book starts my ideas flowing again even if the book is in no way connected with the story I'm working on.

Nina Hansen said...

Good suggestions, both of you!

I did a little reading after I wrote this post and I discovered that many famous writers admitted to using fiction to express feelings deep inside them. They disguised it often, but they still used it as "therapy". I guess we're not alone!

Kelsey said...

Welcome to the world of us literary mortals. MWAHAHAHAHA

Kidding, kidding. But I think this is more normal than you think and to a certain point you're just used to being crazily inspired and having it come naturally :P Not that it was always *easy* before, but, you know. (I'm kind of in the same boat, I haven't written since November 2009, and looking back, it was around the time I got a life outside my house and my safe familiar world that I gave it up. It just faded away and stopped feeling necessary. For now.)

Buuuut this post was fascinating and made me think for a long time. I think that our love of stories and our need to compose them does come from a longing somewhere...but it's not a longing that can be filled by jobs or husbands or children, or anything in this world. At some times we're more satisfied than others, but we can never be completely, absolutely, totally fulfilled, not yet, not here.

In the meantime, experiencing life is as much a part of writing as the getting-words-on-paper part is. Having a child and getting married and setting life goals and achieving them, all those things open up a massive amount of doors--emotionally and otherwise--to aspects of life that you would have a hard time reflecting genuinely in your writing if you had stayed at home dreaming about them instead of going through them yourself.

My opinion. and that last paragraph probably made no sense so apologies. I can't see you EVER giving up writing for good. It will come back, or you'll come back to it, soon enough. Probably when you have a set of colicky quadruplets and zero time. :P

Kayla Marie said...

I agree with, Kelsey. I think our longing does come from somewhere else. But when I look at you and I and Kelsey and everyone else, what do we write about? The things we long FOR! A WWII life in England! To be part of the wild wild west again! Etc!

But I also agree with what Kelsey said about those longings being filled with something else!

It must vary from writer to writer how(and what) they are influenced by. I don't think you can truly say all writers are influenced just by the things outside their life. I think it must vary. Some people find it easier to write about the things that have happened to them, while others are curious and want to find out about the things they don't know! So they must be influenced by both!

I am a firm believer in writing what you know! You told me you're finding it hard to dream these days because of what is happening in your "here and now life". Well, you know your "here and now life", so why not write about that? I know you like adventure and exotic things, but if you really want to write, if you feel the longing to do so, but cannot seem to get the words out, perhaps writing what you know will help. Write like you're telling us story! We love stories after all, and tell us the "here and now" of your life. Even if there are no villains, no bang up shoot 'em dead scenes . . . just life as you're seeing it "here and now".

This is ten times longer than I wanted it to be! sorry!
Love you!

Anonymous said...

i hit those to

but ive been doin better changed a character here and there and it works now

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