Posts Tagged ‘Writing Down the Bones’

Oct

30

2014

Drafting Series: Monkey Mind and Writing the Wrong Book

Filed under: Drafting, Pondering, Publishing, Writing, Writing for Children, Writing Style

I didn’t consciously set out to do a series on drafting, but it’s where I am in my writing life right now. Obviously, it’s what I need to talk and think about. I’ve been working like a fiend on a project that’s been elusive for quite some time. In fact, this is a project I drafted for NaNoMriMo (National Novel Writing Month) last year. At that point it was the 2.0 version of my current 4.1 manuscript, meaning I also have dead end 1.0, 3.0 and 4.0 versions of the same project. Shoot me now.

In my last blog post–Drafting Series: Thought Splinters–I talked about the questions that dig into our subconscious and become the beginning of a first draft. They are the irritants that make us so uncomfortable we have to write about them to get them out. For today’s episode in my drafting series, I’m talking about writing the wrong book in order to find the right one.

Don’t be scared. It happens to everyone. And if it hasn’t happened to you…it will.  *Come here–I’ll hold you. Everything will be okay* Here’s the truth, at some point, you’re going to write a book that isn’t working. I’ll be honest, this can happen in any phase of a book embryo’s life, but today I’m going to talk about writing the wrong book in the early drafting stage. Ya know, because this is a drafting series and all.

What I’m about to say is a no brainer, but I’m going to announce it out loud anyway.

It sucks monkey balls to spend a huge amount of time and creative energy putting 50,000 words (give or take) on the page to only discover that you were writing the wrong book.

It’s a nightmare. A catastrophic event like this is the catalyst for some really awful things like binge chocolate eating or insane wine consumption. Pick your comfort vice and insert it here__________. I had to make myself a hot chocolate just to get through this post. *shudders* Once you realize everything has gone wrong–very, very wrong–and you’re ripping your hair out from the roots, there is literally a ticker tape of thoughts running through your head. That tape holds the list of things you could’ve been doing instead of writing the wrong book. My ticker tape was screaming that I could’ve read a hundred books while eating an epic ton of chocolate and then had time to go for a run so my butt wouldn’t get too big. Then it said there would have been time for a massage–that would’ve been nice after all that running. And everyone would’ve benefitted because I could’ve cooked real food instead of using my toes to hand out slices of pizza to my kids while trying to make my word count. And I easily could have done lots of laundry in my spare time and saved all that money I spent buying back-up underwear for a household of five. I know there would’ve been enough extra cash to go on a warm family vacation during the polar effing vortex.

All of that is true, slightly embellished, because after all I am a writer, but still kinda mostly true. *sigh* Almost makes you wonder about giving up writing in favor of chocolate, massages and warm vacations funded by underwear. Yet, here’s the thing you also need to know. I needed to write the wrong book in order to know what shouldn’t be in the book I do need to write. Which I have to write because I have this great Though Splinter that won’t go away. It’s there when I eat chocolate, get a massage or wash underwear. (Although I’m sure I could easily ditched it for a tropical vacation in the middle of the winter LOL!)  So, if I’m so compelled to write out this thought splinter, what went wrong? I was writing my monkey mind. If you don’t know what monkey mind is, you need to read WRITING DOWN THE BONES by Natalie Goldberg. But Elizabeth Gilbert explains it well…

 

“I am burdened with what the Buddhists call the monkey mind. The thoughts that swing from limb to limb, stopping only to scratch themselves, spit and howl. My mind swings wildly through time, touching on dozens of ideas a minute, unharnessed and undisciplined. You are, after all, what you think. Your emotions are the slaves to your thoughts, and you are the slave to your emotions.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert   Eat, Pray, Love

illustration copy

There is always a part of me that writes for publication. That is likely never going to change. I love having my stories on the shelves and in the hands of readers. But I’m beginning to learn that I don’t write the RIGHT books when the publishing-savvy part of me has it’s foot in my drafting process. I can not let my monkey mind cause interference with my inner compass. Once I write down the bones without a monkey on my back, there will be time to put my publishing hat on. Then I can see how to take my authentic draft and incorporate what I know about the publishing industry in order to show case my work to it’s best advantage. Chasing publication, writing with monkey mind during the drafting process, had me swinging from limb to limb. When you let the monkey get the best of you, all you’re likely to end up with for your effort is a bunch of words you think people want to read. But the best books come when we write what we feel compelled to say.

Writing the wrong book is never easy, but after you’ve had your completely legitimate and appropriate freak out, remember you didn’t write yourself into a dead end–you were just swinging past the wrong book to learn how to write the right one. Don’t give up. And get a cage to put your monkey in when you’re going bananas.

How often does monkey mind get the best of you? Have you written the wrong book before? Did it take you to the right one?

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