Today I spoke with a writer friend about writing fiction. Writers like George Saunders emphasize this feeling of "getting lost" in their writing, of writing their way out of a story. Anne Lamott talks of not knowing where a story is headed, but writing through a shitty first draft to find out.
This amazes and terrifies me about fiction. I have a tough enough time trying to lose myself in an essay when I know the ending... I can't imagine trying to get lost with no bearings whatsoever.
I have to know approximately where I'm going. Even if the exact route is still undecided. I can't be without a plan and exit strategy. This has almost always been the case. Even in high school, at the height of abandon, I never quite got high enough to lose total control. (Exception made for the layoff year: terrible things went down then. But, another time.)
This is maybe a shortcoming, maybe an advantage, I don't know. I know part of what cripples me as a writer is not knowing the direction of an essay, the point it's getting to. I sit on it and make false starts and set it down for a week. I can't just forge ahead into complete unknown. What if there are sharks or embarrassing stories?
I still want to be a spontaneous wild and crazy artist-type, somewhere deep down. So I sleep til the last minute and leave the house looking ragged. I write down to the tight wire deadline, at breakneck speed. When it matters though, day in and out, I crave routine, order, coherence. I thrive there. Why does that feel like such a dirty secret?
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