Writing Differently

I have a lot of trouble writing, though I’ve been a writer since before I knew my parts of speech. The strange part is that I don’t remember having difficulty with the act of writing when I was younger.  As a child and teenager, I felt fulfilled just by sitting down and putting pen to paper. Somewhere along the way, the result began to matter more than the process–until I couldn’t write at all, for fear that what I created would be imperfect.

No amount of reasonable reminders that all humans are imperfect can help me with that feeling. Something about being who I am means that even hearing a rational defense of flaws only causes me to feel uncomfortable with the fact that I am one of those flawed people. I’m human, like everybody else? My stubborn, Autistic brain struggles with that very basic idea . Coupling my perfectionism with entrance into the world of adulthood meant that I stopped writing for fun at all.

However, I did continue dabbling in the world I’d created, putting together mixtapes and profiles for my characters instead of telling their story. I couldn’t let the idea go, even though I couldn’t bear to write it. Many years passed, and multiple attempts to start fresh with the story have helped me to pinpoint the obstacles that stand between me and a real novel.

One of these is the fact that I write differently than other people, which may be partly due to the fact that I read differently than other people. I’ve always been a fast reader, but I was an adult before I realized that was not due to awesome reading skills. Rather the opposite, actually. I’m a skimmer, whose gaze flits all around the page while I try to force it to focus on the sentence at hand. I don’t retain much of what I read, though I enjoy it at the time.

My difficulty with reading contributes to what interests me as a reader: everything involving dialogue, and little else. I struggle mightily with descriptive writers, who place importance on the design of a home or the way that a fictional country is structured. It’s not that there’s something wrong with that kind of writing–there absolutely isn’t. It’s just that I can’t absorb it the way that I absorb interactions between characters, or their thoughts and internal monologues.  Unless where the bedroom is placed or what’s in the salad directly impacts what happens in a story, it’s irrelevant for my reading efforts.

Therefore it’s probably not surprising that I prefer to write dialogue and reflective scenes for characters. World-building was essential for most of my favorite books as a reader, but I struggle with the idea of “setting the scene” as a writer, because I feel like the scene is irrelevant compared to the characters and their actions. Obviously that’s not true, because the action needs a place to occur or it couldn’t exist, but that reality doesn’t help me to conjure a setting. Because snatches of dialogue and disjointed reflections are my focus, I always have more ideas than completed scenes. Even my own ideas fail to hold my attention for long, so I move from character to character or year to year within my long-term story…and all progress halts when I sit down to write in a linear fashion.

After years of struggling to write a story from beginning to end, I decided this time to embrace my unusual writing style and see what happens. There’s no reason why I couldn’t start writing a trilogy in book two instead of beginning with book one, since book two is what really interests me. There’s no rule that says I can’t write a book from both the heroes’ and villain’s points of view. If I think it makes the story stronger, why shouldn’t I sprinkle the chapters with flashbacks from an unidentified perspective? Why on earth have I been trying to make myself sound like other writers for ten years?

As I embark on this grand experiment ten days from now, I’ll use this blog to hold myself accountable via social pressure and (hopefully) write every day until I’m done. But I will also try to build a story in whatever form it needs to take, even if that is a form that I have never seen before in a successfully published work. I hereby declare that no matter how hard I wish to become a published author, I will write while pretending that only my opinion matters. With luck, I may just rediscover my love of writing aside from the possibility of praise and recognition.

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Writing Differently

6 thoughts on “Writing Differently

  1. I always love your posts – the how-you-think parts of them. I love your brain.

    Setting matters. My ability to build worlds, however uninteresting you may find that, matters. Was my only point from earlier today when I said “jabby.”

    -Me ❤

    1. Toni Travis says:

      Ah. I tried (but failed, I suspect) to make it clear that I agree with exactly that. A story can’t exist without a setting, so of course it matters. It’s vital! And I’m jealous of those who create it well, like you, because I’m not well-suited to it.

    2. Toni Travis says:

      I wasn’t trying to imply that because I struggle to appreciate settings, they matter less. My point was that that’s a flaw in ME, not writers who develop their worlds with detail. It makes me a worse reader, and probably a less-evolved writer, and I hope that knowing that can somehow help me improve.

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