February 4, 2016

Dear You: Is there even such a thing as whitewater writing?

Dear You,

Do you ever wonder if the thing that makes you the most you is also the thing that keeps another more productive you just out of reach? Or maybe I should say, is it possible that the way you are, when you’re the most lit up alive version of yourself (the version you kinda crush on, the version that makes you blush), plays right into the hands of the most dead-end you as well?

You probably don’t, because I have a feeling this is a me thing. I bet other people–at least some other people–are so reconciled with themselves that they think anyone who can ramble on about all this lighting up and dead-end crap is full of it and more it. And they’re right.

I’ve become enamored of personality typing over the last few years. Every test I’ve taken lately tells me I’m a solid INFP,* which basically means, in my own words, I’m a bleeding-heart dreamer. The thing is, I really like being a bleeding-heart dreamer, but lately I’ve begun to worry that all this bloody dreaming is getting in the way of doing a single thing to the point that I can call it done.

I have so many stories started. And this feels awful to admit, but I’ve only finished three biggish things–two short stories and a novella–plus a handful of spur of the moment flash stories and poems in my entire writing life. So that means in about 18 years–with a big break in the middle–I’ve built up a pretty good dam, but the levels downstream are suffering. Those poor tubers have been up there shivering on that rock in the middle of the river for far too long. They’re glaring at me now. They want to ride a mammoth flow right on down to the take out so they can towel off and scarf some partially blackened all-beef franks at the cookout. (Sorry. I got carried away.)

The problem isn’t that I don’t know how to finish. (Although I’m sure more practice will make me better at it in ways I can’t anticipate.) The problem is a lack of application and focus. Lazy. Scattered. Well-meaning but ultimately‚Ķ See, I can’t even bother to finish that thought.

I have four stories going right now–that is, stories I think about and piddle with on a regular basis, stories I’ve bothered to share with my writing group. But I decided last week to see one through, to not pick up the others until that one is tossed down the rapids. I’ve chosen the one with the highest emotional stakes–the novella that’s already finished. It’s been rejected by a dream publisher already, but I have great critique notes from a trusted source to consider and apply, and I still believe in it and love writing it.

So I’m in major revision now, and so far, I like being here. Maybe major revision is the best place–no false thrill of the brand new, but no uncertain trudge through to the end either. The bones are there already. My job is to improve the body around them, make it as strong and lovely as I can. Then I have to send it on, ’cause what’s the point of sticking toes in when there’s whitewater way down there on the horizon?

Do they make a lifejacket for writers?

*INFP=Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiver. (I’m pretty entrenched as an F and a N, but closer to the middle of both the introvert/extrovert divide and the Perceiver/Judger divide. In case you care at all. You probably don’t, but you’re too nice to say anything. Right?


Revise away. Perfecting something only happens after the item has seen the light of day. So, with bones in place, the muscle and flesh should appear fairly readily. Or, to speak from Ezekiel, “Prophesize to the dead bones.” Then, “Prophesize to the breath.” And, away you go! Congrats on the draft for the novella.

by Margaret Pearson on February 4, 2016 at 4:18 pm. #

Thanks, Margaret!

by wendy on February 4, 2016 at 8:44 pm. #