Have you ever stood at the end of a rocky crag and looked over the edge? Did you feel your stomach jerk as you wiped the sweat from your brow? Did your palms suddenly become wet, and before you knew it, you were taking careful steps backwards? That is how I feel when my characters take me to the edge of that rock and then disappear. It's as if all that went into creating them, making them part of my subconscious, and living with them for weeks, months, or even years, breaks. That is when I have to decide whether to take the leap to meet them on the other side of my creativity, or step back and wait for their return.
The American author, Henry Miller, said, "All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act without benefit of experience."
Miller's quote haunts me as I thumb through the masses of partial manuscripts piled on top of my writing table and in the back of a file cabinet. There have been so many times that I felt my creativity peter out close to the end of a character's story. Why? Did I just lose interest? Did my lack of experience keep me firmly planted on the ground instead of leaping into the darkness? I really had not thought about it until my granddaughter started doubting her journey to the precipice.
For the last two years, her mind was consumed with an epic of her creation. She has over twenty characters telling her their story and how they fit into her fantasy saga. It took her over a year before one day she decided to begin putting it down on paper. Not in the form of a novel, however, but as a script with not just five or ten episodes, but with five or ten seasons of multiple episodes. Now, after only a few months, she has pages and pages of scenes and is on her third season. I am amazed at her progress, but she wants to quit because she feels she does not have the writing experience to continue. Sound familiar?
Last week we decided to help each other. She picked out an unfinished manuscript from my pile, and I picked out one of her characters who has a separate story. Together we are setting goals and changing things up a bit. Here is part of our plan for the month.
- Set a weekly goal--we decided on one scene
- Let each other read our progress--no editing just reading for continuity
- Fall in love with the character by finding an emotional tie--for me its a motherless child, for her its a girl with a split personality--one that wants to live and one that wants to die (I told you she is creative)
- Talk daily about where we are going and how our characters are faring
- Reward ourselves with a walk through the forest at the end of the week
- Enjoy our leap in the dark!