Anyone who knew me before this year knew that I was not (by any stretch of the imagination) a dog walker. But life, as it does, decided that I needed to change my lifestyle stat. So I’ve started talking mile plus walks every morning with my girl. Good for her, good for me.
What I didn’t expect was the effect it would have on my creative process. I’ve always been a “quilter” when it came to my writing. I’d get in my head scenes and vignettes that I’d write (out of order) and then work to piece them all together. In the end (theoretically) there’s a nice cohesive quilt. But in the meantime, it’s a bunch of squares.
I really resisted this as a process for a long time. I thought. Gosh I should be more chronological. Gosh I should plot more. Gosh I should…I don’t know. Write more like someone else. I kept seeing articles telling me to “do this” or “don’t do that” and I began wondering, shit…am I doing this whole writing thing wrong? And the more I resisted my nature, the less I enjoyed my writing. The less I enjoyed the process. And the unhappier I became. Because I didn’t start writing to become a famous writer. I started writing because I couldn’t not write.
So enter dog walking. Me and my girl go for a little over a mile every day, sometimes more. And in that time it’s just me and my thoughts. Well, and trying to avoid being hit by folks on their cell phones going through stopsigns…but I digress. It’s 20 minutes of each day when I can listen to the birds, and the sounds of my city. Take in the scent and sight and tactile feeling of the world around me. Usually I’ll snag a bit of dialogue. A plot hole gap. Something that will propel my plot onward. I take a walk and one of those quilt pieces starts to come to me. Unlocking the next step in the process. In my process.
Taking that 20-30 minutes is teaching me it’s okay to lean into the way I am. I’m never going to be a super plotter. I’m never going to be someone who can outline. Last time I outlined I damn near wrote a procedural. Not that there’s anything wrong with that if it’s what you want to write. But it’s not me. It’s not my genre. And It’s not my voice and it came through in my prose.
So I guess this is a very long way of getting around to saying there’s a lot of advice out there in this world telling you what you should be doing when it comes to writing a novel. Some of it good. Some of it not so good. But what I’ve learned so far in this journey is that there are some ups, there are a lot of downs, and the only thing that will get you through the low points is the love of the words. And if that writing advice you’re following takes you away from that love, is it worth following? I know I’ll learn a lot more, and my attitudes will certainly change. But the one thing I suspect will remain constant: I write because I love to write. That’s all there is to it. And fighting that is like fighting the tide. Futile. Because eventually I’ll be here again, stitching together my stories. Scrap by scrap. Because I love to do it.