On Writing after Childhood

Anonymous asked: “I used to write a lot when I was younger and then I was able to come up with a ton of ideas quite easily. I quit writing somewhere around puberty because it suddenly became a much much slower process. I’m dying to start again, but I feel like my imagination doesn’t do its thing as easily as when I was a kid. How do you even come up with ideas in the first place? And do you think it’s possible to get back the ‘flow’ I used to have?”

I grew up writing. As time goes on, I’ve noticed that my writing changes – not just style-wise or with maturity but also in what I write. I think that’s an important distinction to make. I look back on what I would write as a kid and though I would write all the time and I’d write a ton of stories that could go on a lot longer, a lot of the time, they weren’t great stories. Every idea was a good idea back then and that’s just not how I write anymore. I could be writing about witches and suddenly have an SWAT team bust through the windows – I didn’t look for cohesion, it was action, action, action. Now when I write, there’s no shortage of ideas, but I’m choosier with them. I might take one and really think it out for awhile. I might change it a bit as I go, but I’ll constantly be looking back at my outline and notes. The topics I’m interested in writing about too have changed a lot. 

Over the years, I’ve noticed my stories have had fewer and fewer monsters. There was a time when you’d see all sorts of ghouls, ghosts, vampires, mummies, werewolves, and what have you in my stories, but now there’s less – certainly not none, I am a huge fan of Magic For Beginners by Kelly Link and Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell – but still, less. Some stories don’t have any monsters at all. 

And sure, now it’s a little slower going, but I’m much happier with the work I have to show for it. And even though it’s “slower” it’s not all that slow. Sometimes when I’m starting out after procrastinating for a few days, I notice my writing doesn’t have that same “flow” it has once I’ve been writing for awhile. You can get that back. That is one thing that doesn’t go away forever. It just takes what I call “getting back into it.” I feel like I find it after writing every day (maybe 5 out of 7 days) for about two or three weeks. I don’t have to write a lot every day, but sitting down and trying to punch out usually 800 words a day will get me there. It might be different for everyone, but that’s my experience. 

With that said, small tangent: sometimes I do start writing the way I did as a kid. I don’t know exactly what makes it different, but I approach it I guess with the same level of excitement and enthusiasm I did when I was younger and always, when I’m writing something like this, I need to be writing with a partner. I’ve been writing with partners since I was a kid and maybe that’s where some of that comes from. Even doing it now, even if I’ve been stumped for days, I can immediately write something I like – or like enough at least – to pass along to my writing partner. When I’m writing with a partner, we both come in with a plan for the story and the rule is we don’t tell each other our plans. We come up with the premise together and talk out each of the characters, but everything that we plan for once we start writing we keep to ourselves. We know what the characters want and they can’t act out of character – we sometimes will argue over what that character would and wouldn’t do. It becomes something of a game. We try to screw over the other person and mess up their neat little plot. The plot somehow usually doesn’t steer too off course, mostly because it has to grapple with both of our plots slowly unfolding and constantly compromising. Sometimes these stories turn out half decent – and partially, because we’re both correcting each other constantly, getting details right, remembering subplots – we split the work of remembering things to eventually make it all come together in the end. 

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