Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

When "just write it" is just right

I once read an interview with an author. She talked about how she told her agent she had an idea for a story but not sure where to go with it. Her agent said, "Just write it."

Those three words have stuck with me ever since. I even used it as part of an article title. "Just write it" is really good advice for writers. You can't get any writing done in your head; it has to be on paper or the screen. You need to "just write it" and see where you go with it.

This morning, my infant son had to be transported to another city to have eye surgery. I wanted to write about this experience, because there was so much related to it that I wanted to write about. It was also a good way for me to get my feelings and thoughts down onto paper (or screen) instead of having ALL of that stuff in my head.

Still, I didn't know where to go with it. How would I slant it? What theme would it have? What kind of message could it impart to readers?

And how will it even end??

That was my biggest problem. I wanted to write about something and I didn't even have an ending for it yet. How can I write something if I don't have an ending??!!

But that urge to start writing about it was very strong. The words "just write it" really hung over me. Just get everything...EVERYTHING down. Put my thoughts and feelings into words. Free them from within me!

So I sat at the computer and started typing. I just typed and typed. I knew there were trouble spots, but I could fix those later. For now, it was time to write. Later, I will edit and reslant.

I ended up writing a 5-page essay this morning. And even though it didn't really have an ending, I felt that the ending I used for it was sufficient. Good enough for now, at least. (The good news is, all went well. So now I DO have an ending for it! Yay!)

Even though it was not perfect and the title was iffy, I was glad to get all of that down. Later, I was thinking of how I can revise it and slant it to make it a piece I could send out, perhaps to an anthology. I also started thinking of possible new titles for it.

I actually got a second wind from writing that essay later on, when I wrote a short story that's been brewing in my head for several days.

Thing of it is, I didn't have many details about this short story. I knew it involved two characters (gender/names/ages unknown) and that it would take place at a bus stop. They were waiting for a bus. I got the idea to write a story like this when I read in Nickel and Dimed how author Barbara Ehrenreich said, "A story about waiting for buses wouldn't be very interesting." I saw that and thought, ohh, really? So I decided to write a story about something interesting that happens to two people while they are waiting for a bus.

And...that's all I had. No names or anything else. Just that setting. Just that idea.

I wanted to write the story, though. After this morning's accomplishment, I felt that I could do it. "Just write it" and get it out there.

So that's what I did. And this time, I was happy with it. As I started writing this story, the fragmented pieces started to come together. The characters came to life and it became a REAL story for me that was playing out in my head. All I had to do to "see" this story was start writing it. Just begin it. That's all it took for the story to become clear to me, as I continued writing it. I think it came out pretty good, though we'll see when I edit and revise it later.

So there you have it. The proof is in the pudding. The next time you have doubts and aren't sure about your ideas, push all that away and "just write it!"



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