Wednesday, February 09, 2011

The Mysterious Giant Cow

(Currently listening to insanely catchy new tune by The Strokes called "Under Cover of Darkness," which you can stream from their MySpace page here, or download for FREE for the next two days here.)

So I'm outlining a new story, and I'm currently in that nebulous zone where my unconscious and conscious mind need to work together and I can't quite tell if they're doing it or not because, hey, half of it involves my subconscious.

By which I mean that I'm busy trying to think of how the story should go - how the central theme should be reflected in the plot and characters, what cool twists the story could have, who should do what to whom, and so on. I'm scribbling in notebooks and typing random things in between tasks at work.  I ponder and juggle scenes in my head while I'm driving, sometimes so intently that I realize I missed my favorite song on the radio just as it's ending.

All of this is work.  And that's the conscious bit.

I've learned over the years that my subconscious is busy working on things at the same time.  Only it doesn't inform me of its progress until something burbles up from the depths and presents itself to my conscious mind as JUST. SO. INCREDIBLY. OBVIOUS.

And that's the trust part.  I have to trust that my subconscious is going to step up and point out the obvious to the rest of my brain.  Over the years it's seemed to work, mostly.  There have been projects I abandoned because the ol' subconscious burped up an answer.  I hammered away for awhile, then realized it just wasn't going to work, and moved on.

But usually I have a sense that the answer will come.  I don't know where or when or how or what the hell it'll be.  But it will come.  I have to make a leap of faith about my own brain.  I trust it to step up to the plate  if I just keep hammering away.

So writing is major work.  And that work is necessary. The conscious work provides the raw data (I think) that the subconscious masticates and savors and digests through various stomachs, finally pooping out a more cohesive strategy for the book.

And yes, I just used a metaphor that makes my subconscious out to be some sort of mysterious giant cow.  Not the most flattering, given that it also turns my story into manure.  But it's fertile all right, so I suppose it all works out in the end.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Write the Book You Want to Read and Give the Speech...

I didn't attend SCBWI's New York conference this year, but I wish I'd been able to listen to keynote speaker Sara Zarr. The kidlit internet has been alive with admiration for what they heard her say, and after reading more about it here, I just had to post the link.

It's the speech she wanted to hear when she attended conferences, before she was published, while she was filled with frustration.  It's about leading a creative life, and how that's the point of it all.

An agent at a conference told her: "The time between when you are no longer a beginner but you are not yet in the business is the hardest and no one can tell you how long this phase will last."

So what do you do during that phase?

You lead a creative life.


Read more about what Sara Zarr said here.