Monday, August 14, 2006

Passion and Perseverance

My writing friend Sue blogged on LiveJournal (makoiyi's Journal--see links to the side) today about passion and writing. She feels writing is nothing without passion and that the first draft is the most passionate. This becomes a problem when you need to rewrite, as revising and polishing can take some of the passion out of the story. I agree with her to some extent. My main project right now is editing Lennon's Line so I can start sending it out, and I've gone over the first part so many times I'm sick of it. I'm taking a break from it for a while to work on Key. I do worry sometimes that by changing that part from first person to third that I have sucked Jo's unique voice out of the story. But Sue also worries that juggling everything you need to do right--POV, character, dialogue, motivation, plot, among others--can also take life from a story. I have two answers for this. The first is that as you become more experienced, you develop an instinct that helps you do more things correctly in the first draft. You develop a better ear for dialogue and pacing, for instance. The second thing is that you don't have to get everything right on the first try. For instance, in a first draft, I tend to focus most on the characters and the plot. After I've got that down, I can then look at it and realize, "Oh, I need more setting here," and work it in. By the time I post something on OWW, I've gone over it a few times to make it as good as I can before someone else shows me how to improve it. All of this takes lots of time. That's why perseverance is just as important as passion; indeed, passion can breed perseverance.

I'm reminded of a story I read in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig. I'm not sure if I remember this correctly, but a westerner was making a pilgrimage with some monks to a temple on a mountain. He eventually had to give up, not because he was physically unfit, but because his ego got in the way and wouldn't let him cope with the discomforts of the trip. The monks' faith enabled them to sense the holiness of the mountain with each step they took. Pirsig ended the anecdote by saying, "If you climb a mountain to prove how big you are, you'll never make it. And even if you do, it's a hollow victory." Writing can start out as something you do for your ego, but the path to publication is longer, narrower, and even thornier than the road to Heaven. If you don't do it for love, you'll never make it.

Speaking of which, writing about writing isn't writing itself, so I should see if I can get some done before going to bed.

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