- by Vonna Harper
Last night I attended the monthly meeting of our local writers’ group (had to, I’m the president). A great time was had by all, at least by me, and as always happens after one of those talk and eat events, I come home energized. One member gave a rundown of a workshop she attended, another enthused about the upcoming RWA conference, and all of us salivated over the Ipad one member brought. (It belongs to her teckie husband).
This member is a talented and multi-published writer, and scary smart as my #1 son says about his younger brother. She has taught workshops on various aspects of the how to write thingie, and although I’ve been published longer and have more books under my belt, I’m always in awe of her expertise. I feel the same way when another member discusses the process she goes through with her screen writing.
How do they do it? How and why does one become a writing teacher? I gave it a shot when the community college asked me to lead a night class. Piece of cake I first thought.
Then panic set in because for me writing is this organic, unconscious process commanded by some part of my brain I don’t understand. Not wanting to give my students writing lessons, I encouraged them to bring their wip and we’d discuss them. I thought things were going well and put in my two cents worth about characterization, plot, pacing, the whole nine yards but week by week fewer students showed up.
Sorry Mother, Nana, and son #2, I ain’t no teacher. I write. I don’t know how I do it. Okay, that isn’t true. I can hear the wheels grinding and mostly meshing as I tackle each day’s writing. My characters are multi facited to me. I set them off on this track called a plot and occasionally rein them in when they go off course. I let them head over the mountain when I thought we were going to stay in the valley because on some level I sense that this is what needs to happen.
But I don’t want to examine the process. I don’t want to plug my characters and thus myself into a how-to book because I’m afraid that’ll suck them dry. Believe me, I read my share of such books when I started along this journey and occasionally do some refresher reading, but you’re not going to catch me filling out standard character sketches. Don’t talk to me about peaks and valleys in plot, rising tension, resolution. I’m busy pouring my guts out on the page.
And I no longer want to understand how that happens. Maybe that’s because I’m afraid it’ll all fall out of my ears and I’ll have to go back to reporting for a small down newspaper. Shudder.
Someone please tell me that I’m not alone in seeing writing as this mysterious and organic process.