Accepting the Pants

In the planning phase, I can always see everything so clearly.  I get to know the characters I’m going to write about. I can just see my settings, feel the feelings and ambiences I want to evoke. I can see how my characters will change trough the story, and what major revelations they will have. But then… Then it’s time for the nitty gritty.

Figuring out exactly how all of this happens; the details; everything between the cool bits that will tie everything together. God how I hate it!

This is also the place where I often loose my magic. I can’t figure everything out, so I take a break. When I’m on my break I have fun. I think of other things. I read, listen to or watch other stories. And when I get back to my story… I’ve lost my connection to it and any desire to continue it. I’ll often have a new and shiny idea that I want to write about instead.

This is a pattern for me, more so really than I care to admit. I have a thousand discarded stories. When I find them again, I can’t understand why I didn’t continue writing them. Then I’ll usually try to pick them up again, change a few things around to make it work better. And then… I have to get those details down again, and the cycle continues.

So how do I break it? I could just sit myself down, dedicate a weekend and get those details down. But I think I stumbled upon a solution last summer when I panted my way trough a first draft of a story. Granted, the draft was horrible, almost unusable. But I stuck with it, and now I can’t get that story out of my head. I’ve been churning it around in my head for almost a year now. Not constantly, of course, but regularly. And I think I have found solutions to many of the problems with it.

So, am I a pantser? I have always thought of myself as a planner. I’ve even thought of pantsing as a lazy copout. And here I am. The most successful I’ve ever really been in writing has been by panting.

Perhaps its a matter of hours invested? Time spent in this imaginary world of mine? It has taken a lot of time for me to process this. I’ve reached this conclusion before, but I haven’t really accepted it. But now, almost a year later, perhaps I can get to terms with being a pantser?

Limitations

This April, I’ve been participating in Camp Nanowrimo. During camp you can set yourself the writing goal that fits for you, and have support from other participants (on the forum, or by joining a cabin). I’ve participated before, and I’ve always had fun with it. It’s nice to feel that extra pressure to write while not being under the enormous pressure of the standard 50.000 words of Novembers Nanowrimo. Last July, camp really helped me with writing a first draft.

This april, though, I’ve struggled. From the very beginning I had difficulty settling on a project. Even when I thought I had a manageable project and goal set for the month, I’ve had trouble keeping up.

I have been stressing with school, but nothing unmanageable. I haven’t had complete freedom to write, but nobody ever does. I think what has happened is that I have let the stress of everything prevent me from really doing much of anything. Even now I should really be writing a paper. Funny how I only take time to return to my blog when I’m running from all my other responsibilities.

Sitting down, taking a few breaths and managing my tasks shouldn’t be such a difficult thing to do, and I suppose I have managed in the past. But now, I find it difficult. I’m beginning to think I’ll just have to adjust my writing goal and figure out how I can do the bare minimum in all my tasks. Just until I can get through this.

It feels… Weak? Like a loss. But then, I haven’t truly lost anything. I still have more words than I did before the month began, and I don’t actually have to give my all at school to get trough. Truth is that if I take this minor setback, I can still make it trough this having still accomplished something.

Making decisions like this, I’m beginning to realise, is part of being a responsible artist. No matter what you do: visual arts, writing, acting, music… anything really. You have to be kind to yourself and reign in yourself. I’m sure we could all drive ourselves into an early grave working hard, and artists have done for a long time. But surely you can also try to take care of yourself. Keep your ego and your longing for brilliance back, if only a little, so you don’t burn your candle at both ends. That way you’ll be able to do more in the future.

Inspiration

Where do you get your inspiration? And how important is it? Creativity and the artist has long been connected in peoples minds by this misty veil of mystery. Inspiration is seen as a sudden flash of genius that will rocket your art into existence. This idea is beautiful bu it can also be detrimental to aspiring artists who spend all their time staring out a window, waiting for that flash of inspiration.

The trend nowadays seem to shift more towards demystifying inspiration, and placing a lot more value on the actual work of creating. The nitty gritty: techniques, developing a routine, helpful equipment and so on… This sort of environment among people and online has helped me a lot in developing and in my attempts at disciplining myself. I’m not afraid of the mystery of the artist. I feel like “the artist” as a concept is beginning to be more like the greeks concept of a painter or a poet: a craftsman. Simply someone who’s good at their craft. A part of me really like that idea: creating things out of thoughts, feelings and impressions like a potter might make a vase.

I do think inspiration is very important to, don’t get me wrong. But I feel like it is more of a continuous thing, the process of living is the same as finding inspiration: Meeting people and talking to them, taking in new impressions trough art, nature, philosophy or science. And as I work more and more like that potter making a vase, these experiences turn into material for new stories.