Of blenders and archeology.

Years ago, an old and dear friend once described my writing process thusly:

“Your head’s like a blender…ya just dump stuff in and see how high it blows when you leave the lid off.”

And after all of this time, I am still absolutely convinced that this is quite possibly one of the most astute observations ever made.

Because it’s true.

And this was evidenced, yet again, yesterday.

I had sat down to do some work on my current WIP. Now, my mental outlining for said WIP went roughly as follows:

“So there’s this horse and something about magic and more animals and more magic and then suddenly there are these two kids who like to scavenge but have apparently nothing to do with the animals whatsoever but BALLS IF I KNOW LET’S JUST KEEP WRITING AND MOVE ON.”

Needless to say, this is not the sort of summary one could ever pitch to a publisher. Really, it’s just not at all helpful in general.

But I kept going. Because I could tell that there was an actual story there, buried amidst all the strange and seemingly-unconnected snippets I was getting.

Because, well, blender.

Stephen King talks about it, in his book On Writing. (Which, if you’ve not yet read, do. Put this blog post away and go get yourself a copy of On Writing instead, and only come back here once it’s finished. It is far more important and I’m happy to wait, I promise.) About how writing is a bit like archeology, how writing is more an act of uncovering rather than creation.

Your words are your spade. You dig. Sometimes you see a tiny fleck of glitter in all of this dirt, and you dig there to try and unearth its roots. Sometimes you see nothing at all, and fling your words as they will just to see what you might find.

Sometimes you catch wind of a story, and go after it the way you’d suss out an ancient city now underground.

The point is, you’ve got the handle in your own hands, but no matter how careful with it you may be, you can’t always control what it will hit.

And me, I don’t mind getting dirty.

I like writing with a laughing, reckless sort of abandon, excavating pits and then diving into them headlong just to see what’s there. (Or throwing everything into a blender with the lid off and blades whirling, to get back to our first analogy.)

Yesterday, it paid off.

I finally found the story. Or the story found me, depending.

There was that moment, where suddenly, everything started to connect. Where everything started to make sense and is just a quietly contented yes.

Do I know where the story is headed from here? Nope. Haven’t the foggiest. I’d probably be pretty bored if I did.

But what I do know is that I have a story. It’s there. I’m not just digging blindly.

And I trust the story.

I don’t need anything more than that.

So let’s go, yeah?


5 thoughts on “Of blenders and archeology.

  1. On Writing was an incredible book. I don’t think I would’ve ever begun MY sporadically-written WIP if I hadn’t read it first.

    That’s the tragedy of writing, though. Me, for example–I know my story. I know what I want to do with the story. But I have no idea how to approach it. It’s funny. I can give all the advice in the world on how to write, but I can’t take it myself.

    • I really don’t hesitate to say that it is the book on writing, honestly. I would and do recommend it to everyone even considering becoming an author.

      And that sort of thing happens a lot, I feel, including to me. For me, at least, it’s oftentimes a confidence thing — I won’t feel worthy of approaching a story, if that makes sense. Almost as though the story is beyond me at this point. (Kind of like how King describes his attempts at starting The Dark Tower.)

      And the only thing I’ve found that helps is, ironically, writing. Just writing. Anything. It doesn’t have to be the story that’s giving you grief, but just something to remind you that this is what you do and why. You’ve definitely got the talent for this; you just need to let yourself fall into the rhythm of it and then everything will eventually go on from there. :)

      • Yeah, definitely. Although, you have to give the man props. Many books on writing are written by people who’ve never actually done anything with their writing careers, so a little advice from the top of the mountain can feel like gospel truth sometimes!

        :-) I don’t feel worthy either. But I think you have what it takes. That doubt is the key ingredient in a well-written work, because it’s what allows for those painstaking rewrites and second-guesses that result in the little thing some call polish.

        I seriously need to just keep writing, bit by bit, like you say. Keep my head in the game and all. But thank you so much! Now about that whole finding the rhythm thing…yeah…

  2. I absolutely love revelations like those. Something like that hit me recently, as well. Sometimes all you need is to just let the characters be true to themselves :)

  3. These are two great images for what we do as writers. I love the blender idea – to allow yourself to just bung everything in give it a blast and see how high it can get. I imagine most days you blow the top off! I will aspire to that – love that sense of freedom.

    And the digging image resonates so well too – just grab the spade and get to it – don’t worry about all the dirt you’re flinging up behind and around you – it’s worth it to catch the glint of that gem under the surface.

    Your idea of writing with reckless abandon is very inspiring and something that totally appeals to me. I’m a business writing consultant by day but a creative writer of poetry, plays and currently my first novel in my spare time, and sometimes it’s hard to break off the shackles of the day-job discipline, go a bit crazy with the spade and get dirty. I’m going to try it this week and see what happens.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

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