11 Jul 2013

Artists and Surgeons

Just put on latex gloves to deter myself from biting my nails right off while I attempt to write. There must be a better -- and less ridiculous looking -- way to be rid of this annoying writing distraction, but for now, this will have to do.

They make me feel like a doctor, though, especially because their super sterile look and smell is reminiscent of the hospital. And that got me thinking: in a way, writers do a lot of operating. On their writing, of course. (Don't ask me to diagnose an illness or heal a wound -- I tend to jump to paranoid conclusions. I will probably assume that a headache = a brain aneurysm, or something equally as ridiculous.) But anyway.

We know that writers are artists. What with all that creativity and imagination and right-brained thinking. But we're also pretty left-brained when we need to be. Whether you're a plotter or a pantser, you will have to make sure, at one point or another, that your story makes sense. That all of its parts are in order and are working in unison. And that can't be achieved by simply plastering words on a page and leaving them the way they are.

That's not to say that the process is entirely systematic, though. If I've learned anything from surfing writing blogs, it's that the most important step toward finish a novel is writing the first draft without expecting it to be a masterpiece. Just write! Don't rewrite as you write, either!

I see you rereading that last paragraph and I'm telling you to stop! Stop in the name of writing law! (Okay, so it's not a rule written in stone. Just roll with it for the sake of the bad joke.)

I feel you, though. If you're anything like me, the thought of giving over authority to your fingers and to that part of your mind that's dying to write terrifies you. To the core. Like, nightmare fuel, man.

"Write? Not perfect? Must be perfect. Must be perfect first time."

Being a perfectionist is suffering. But damn it, it's important to tell your internal editor to pop shove it once in a while. Say it with me: POP SHOVE IT, INTERNAL EDITOR.

(At this point your internal editor refuses to even acknowledge you. You will definitely have to throw him/her out of the room and lock the door. Maybe push a dresser in front of it to be safe. Oh, and don't look out the window. He/she is probably staring through it, judging you.)

Now that you've sort of successfully gotten rid of that menace, in comes creativity. Pure creative extract, so potent that, during the first draft, you're Jackson Pollock, throwing and dripping words like paint across your Word document -- sometimes making conscious decisions and sometimes letting creative instinct take over. You can allow yourself to be daring and messy and unaffected by stray bits of imperfection.

But when it's all over, and your first draft is riddled with splotches and smudges that should never see the light of day...Well.

Enter the surgeon.

In scrubs and all, you saunter into the operating room, and with one look, you know: this one's going to be a doozy.

 "Is there any hope, Doc? Can we save it?"

You no longer see the imperfections as endearing mistakes and splatters.

You see blood, and lots of it. Gaping wounds and a heart monitor to remind you that you've got a crucial task ahead of you.

"Yes, nurse. We can save it. But it's going to get," you snap your latex gloves, "Messy."

So, there you are again, elbow-deep in a mess of a manuscript. But this time there's no room for mistakes. No giving yourself up completely to the right side of your brain now -- you have a patient to save, and you have to get all technical up in here.

"Another gaping plot hole! And... Oh, God -- did that character just bite her lip for the third time in this scene?!"

"I'm afraid so. Nurse, hand me that scalpel."

And so ends my roundabout way of saying that writing requires just as much systematic, logical thinking as it does creativity. I think it's awesome that authors are able to do both, even if they might favor one side more than the other.

What about you guys? Are you more of a artist-writer or a surgeon-writer? To be honest, I'm more of a surgeon. I jump the gun and start to operate before I should. And this is incredibly ironic because I study Visual Arts in university. I have a hard time giving myself over to artistic instinct when I'm painting or drawing, for God's sake. I don't know how I manage to get anywhere when I write.