Monday, July 18, 2011

A Road Not Taken

I'm sitting here at my desk, where I do a lot of writing and letting my mind wander.  I suppose this is one reason I'm a writer.  I've been letting my mind drift since I was a boy.  Maybe someday it will drift back to me...

And as I sit here, I think about roads not taken.  I don't why I do this.  It is pointless really.  I can't change the past, I can only learn from it to change the future.

But here's a simple thought experiment: what if I had started writing seriously sooner than I did?  Would I be farther along toward my goal of being published?  I don't think so because delay, my procrastination, was necessary for me to have the ideas that lead to the initial plot of my novel in the first place.

Let's step back in time for a moment so I can explain this.  As a high school, I was big into thinking up ideas for stories but not big on execution.  I think the reasons for this are many:  most of the ideas were not very good; I had no writing tools (like word processing software) to assist me; I did not very the focus and discipline to do the writing.

All of these things resolved themselves in college.  My ideas got better, I got my first computer and word processing software, I learned how to stay focused on a piece of writing and ultimately learned how to compose at the keyboard.

But even after college, while I wanted to pursue a life of creative writing, I did not have a really good idea for a story.  There were bits and pieces of my fantasy world, random thoughts, sketches of some maps, but no plot, no characters, nothing that would let me take the reader from point A to point B.

What I lacked, as I discovered later, was life experience.  I needed to go out into the world and have some experiences traveling and working in other jobs to understand myself and people.  Oh sure, I studied psychology and different cultures in school.  But there is a fundamental difference between theory and application.  And so I needed to stop reading about people and places, and start experiencing them.

From these few years I learned much and so when I finally had the idea for my novel, I was ready to receive it and recognize it for what it was.  That's sent me off on the writing path I wanted.

William Wordsworth, the English Romantic poet, believed that art comes from experiences recollected when one is calm and passive.  I think I agree with that.  That seems to be what works for me.  So if I had taken a different road, I might not be blogging now or hammering out my second novel.  I might still be groping for a way to put words on the page.

This is a scary thought and a humbling one too.  And it sustains me when words will not come.

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