What if . . . It is a great tool for writers, but it is also a great tool for everything. Have you ever done a what if in your daily life?
I have to admit that this is a relatively new experiment for me. I come back to it every now and then as things happen. Big decisions, little events, major disasters, or just trying to get through the day. Sometimes taking a step away from something is the best way to get some perspective on it. I have to admit, that I’m generally not very good at that. But once I do manage to back off a little bit, I can start what-iffing and get some perspective. Easiest question is: what if the worst happened? Which, of course, leads to the next question: what is the worst that can happen? So worst case scenario, if that happened, could I cope with it? Most of the time the answer is yes, I can deal.
I have had a major earthquake in my family life recently with my sister getting blindsided by a sudden divorce. So as she comes up with questions that are plaguing her mind I have been doing a lot of what-iffing trying to find solutions that work. I keep coming back to the worst case scenario and can we live with that? The bonus about the worst case scenario is that it rarely comes to pass. Sometimes it does. But then you take the hit, and keep going. For Finding Nemo fans, “Just keep swimming,” as Dory says. I even hear the little sing-song she does when I think that. Are things ideal? No, even heck no! But are we paralyzed and unable to accomplish anything? Again the answer is no. Have I managed to keep going and get some writing done? Not as much as I’d like, but I didn’t stop. I came back to what if . . . What if I took some time today and put down some new words? I did it. I didn’t get as far as I would have liked, but then again, I did get something which is more than nothing. In the end, I feel it is better to have tried than not.
For something a little more long term than just what is happening daily. What if I get to 30, 40, 50 and I never tried? Put whatever in that sentence. What is the one thing (or more) that you’ve always wanted to do and never done? Time does go on. Eventually you do get to that point in the future. I, for one, don’t want to say, “I wish I had . . . ” How about you? The bonus is there is always another thing that I want to do. When I get to that point in my life I will be able to look back at everything that I did and be satisfied because I did do it.
Writing tools as tools for life. Very cool. Write on, my friends.
This is a basics post. I find it useful to review the basics of writing from time to time to make sure that my scenes are as powerful, emotional, or descriptive as I can make them without a lot of exposition. I’m a story person. Give me the details that I can use to get the scene in my head and keep going. I don’t want to read every last detail of how the white flower looked wilting in the cracked, blue bowl on the scarred table. If I wanted to watch a movie, I’d have turned one on. I want to make my own movie.
The example that springs to mind (and yes, I’m dating myself again) is Snoopy sitting on the doghouse with his typewriter, “It was a dark and stormy night . . . ” Ok, sure I get the point. But wouldn’t you rather read, “The wind howled through the trees. The blanket of night wrapped around him as he squinted trying to see . . . ” Also corny, but you get the point as well. Small details in active words, give me a picture to go with and I’m a happy camper ready to get into your story.
What brought this to my attention is that I happened to read 3 separate posts on this in 2.5 weeks. The first one that I came across in my random writing craft quests was on the Romance University. For some reason Romance writers seem to be the most committed group of people to educating the masses in how to write. Anyway, the post was Rivet Your Readers with Deep POV. It mentioned a book by Jill Elizabeth Nelson called (go figure) Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View. I read the post, glanced at the book and forgot about it. A second post I came across was actually published 2 days before the previously mentioned one talking about the same book. Funny. I did a little more researching on the book, and went on my merry way.
Did you ever hear the quote by Ian Flemming in Goldfinger? “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.” Within 2 weeks, I read another post by the fabulous Patricia C. Wrede talking about virtually the same thing. Ok, enough with the brick to the head. Maybe this is something I should pay attention to. I go back and look at my writing. Light bulb! I see where this can be very useful. So every now and then your subconscious might be reminding you of something that you once knew but have forgotten. If you’ve never seen it before, well this is a chance to learn something new.
Finally, the key that brought all this together in my mind also came from Patricia C. Wrede in her post Imperfect Telepathy. Because after all, when I read a story, I want MY movie. Cheers.
I’ve been looking at creativity lately. Studying it. Working it. Trying to get a handle on it. And I’ve come to understand that there are millions of ideas out there. Yep, there are. First step is the idea. We all have them. Some are better than others. David Jones says, “Most ideas fail in practice, so everyone trying to be creative has to live with lots of failures. It doesn’t matter: you discard the ones that don’t work.” Yes, I said it. Deal with failure. How else do we learn? What is the old saying about
Benjamin Franklin Thomas Edison and the light bulb? Something like he knew 2,000 ways how NOT to make a light bulb. He just needed to figure out 1 way to make it work. 2,000 ways. Get that, kids? That is a lot of failures for the implementation ideas, but not the inventor. Eventually he succeeded with his 1 workable idea. More on this in a moment.
What do you need next? If you haven’t figured it out by now, you might want to find something else to do. Yep, you guessed it: you need to work. The difference between those who do and those who don’t is work. At one time in my other professional life, I was introduced to a guy who’d written a definitive book on my (then) career. I had forgotten about him until I came upon his site last week when I was researching something else. He has completely done his own thing. And Scott Berkun is where I get the “you need to work it” thing. How much time have you invested in your ideas? After all, you want to do something with it, don’t you? Work up a sweat. Put your butt on a chair and get something done. Grab your easel and head out some place you’ve never been. Head back to the drawing board and doodle. Short answer, DO SOMETHING.
Need some more motivation? Back to Mr. Berkun again on How to be Creative – The Short Honest Truth. The difference between your hero (whomever it may be: Einstein, Mozart, Monet, Neil Gaiman, Joss Whedon, etc.) is that they get to work and keep working it until they find the 1 idea that does work. (Told you I’d come back to it.) They had/have a passion for their idea that they translated into reality by working, sometimes long and hard for it. Don’t be afraid to work. Don’t be afraid to fail. Now do it.
Edit to fix factual error. (Thanks, Scott!)