Monday, December 13, 2010

A Writer's Twinkling Personalities

Ah Christmas lights. We drive past an amazing display of lights every time we leave the neighborhood. It has made me think about what kind of people live in each house, according to their decorating tastes. Some lights are very structured, outlining the house using those straight light thingys, and some lights are almost flung on everything...the roof, the porch, the tree, the mailbox. Other houses have bought those giant inflatable snowmen...which to me, is funny, because where we live, we usually end up with six feet of snow for at least 4 months, might as well wait til you can build your own!
And other houses have a sweet manger scene with lights hanging elegantly in just the right places, blinking to Christ honoring carols at just the right moments.

As a writer, I often realize that I can take on multiple personalities in my authorship, just like the multiple styles of Christmas lights we all see this time of year. Do you ever find yourself sitting in front of your wip wondering if you should dissect your own motives at that moment, instead of your characters? Using the examples of the lighting extravaganzas of the season I'll show you what I mean.

The Perfect Outlining Christmas Twinkles: Sometimes I just want to sit down and hash out the plot. I want to go from point A to point B, and skip all the fluff. This is good when you are sketching out your draft. When I find myself in this mood, I switch to excel and start creating's just not the right mindset to write a masterpiece. ;)

Random Light Sprinkling Overgrowth: So this is often an eye-catcher and intrigues the reader to keep going, but it can completely hide the intended flow of the plot. Sometimes you have so many good ideas and techniques you try to fit them in the story, somehow some way. But when it comes down to it, they can dilute the theme, squelch good solid character development, and leave the reader dizzy wondering if they just read a group of short stories instead of a novel. When I have the idea passion, I sit back and analyze which would move the story forward or just distract from the theme I'm trying to convey.

Inflatables: If I am not in the mood to really sit and think, I find myself pouring out the cliches, the generic images, the deadly adverbs. Instead of working on making it a real, authentic piece, I type away making it a real piece. :)
A Meaningful Christmas Display: Perfectly timed lights to music, elegantly displayed décor, and a solid focus on the baby in the manger. This is the type of writing we wish we all sat down to do, every time. Well thought out, meaningful, elegant, and focused. I've come to find out with my multiple personalities as a writer, this one peeks through when my distractions are few and my heart is right.

Do you feel like you are a "different" writer at different times? I may have some weird writing disorder that nobody else experiences, but now that I've pinpointed my problem, I will know which writer to listen to as I sit down and create a shining display! :)


Dale said...

Writing is intrinsically an a act of ego. But as a reader, I am turned off by written works that come across that way. Ditto holiday displays. If it's overdone and gaudy and it looks like they are in a competition over who can use the most lights (your third picture), I'm not impressed. And while my ego drives the writing process, I strive to make it absent, or at least balanced, in the finished product.

I'm also uninspired by yards decorated with mismatched lights, some multicolored lights on the bush, some blue on the tree (your 4th pic). A limited amount of thought went into it. Leftover lights, like leftover thoughts, these are the blog posts of holiday lighting. (If that seems offensive, consider that blog comments are far worse including this one, and I blog my leftovers too.)

A small house I pass regularly has a pretty, understated and orderly display of blue lights and a decorated tree visible through the front window. It is small, but well done, and makes me smile. It's a satisfying short story.

My favorite display is on a large house and it has a lot of lights, but it is tasteful, elaborate, and classy. It's on a corner lot and from the side street, the back yard is even more inspiring. It looks professionally done, and clearly a lot of effort, and a very tall ladder, were involved. I picture the owners being justifiably proud. It is the novel I love to read, and the novel I hope to publish.

Keli Gwyn said...

Angie, what a great analogy. Like you, I experience aspects of each of the personalities listed above.

When I slavishly adhere to the rules, my writing tends to be like the first house. When I don't follow a plan and let my characters take over, I have a mess that resembles the second house. When I edit, I notice the trite and overused words and phrases that bloat my writing like the inflatables in the third picture. When I seek the excellent counsel of my critique partners and agent and act on it, I'm able to shape the story into a cohesive whole that flows and is actually fun to read.

Casey said...

What a great way of saying this Angie. I too often sit and wonder if what I am doing is really worth it. Is this story worth my time to sit and mess with? And I like what you said, should I be really analyzing my own motives instead of that of the characters? But what I think it comes down to most of all is that we are learning. With every word we put on the screen, we learn something new, even if we don't necessarily "feel" the knowledge, it is still seeping in, especially because we all want to make this a career. We will do what it takes to keep learning.

Okay, I'll go away now. Great post. :)

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Angie, I love how you broke these down into categories. There are so many times I feel like a different writer. And all those times I still try to write something, chronologically, on the same manuscript. This post has made me consider what else I could do with those different moods but still be productive toward my writing.

Pepper said...

Great post, Ang
And YES - I feel this way a lot of times. Especialy on those days when I know I"m not going to get much writing time - or it will be dispersed among a very busy schedule, so I sprinkle lights in all directions hoping some will end up in a nice spot - and others...well, I'll have to go back and fix those gaudy things later.

Oh - to make it all meaningful. But that's really our heart-goal in the end.

Julia M. Reffner said...

Angie, This is a great post. Great way of putting our struggle in a new way.

I love these thoughts about analyzing our thoughts and motives and using our writing time accordingly. I think at times doing this would be a major frustration buster.

Angie Dicken said...

Glad I am not the only one! Hope you all have a very Merry Christmas...with lots of twinkles!