Sunday, February 5, 2012

You Won't Really Know Until You Do It

Hello!  It's been a while since I've posted because of my college classes and, while I do get the urge to blog, I also wonder what I could possibly have to say that's relevant to writing and romance!  I'm immersed in a different sort of world of biology and chemistry, and even I can push the analogies only so far. *grin*

But I do have a new mantra of sorts this semester, and it's one that I hope will carry over to writing:

 You won't really know until you do it.

Perhaps it's a rather obvious little gem, but this relates -- and in a round-about-way is as close as I'll likely get to an answer -- to some writerly questions I've pondered on the time spent preparing for and researching what I'm going to write about.  Not just about facts and descriptions, but the works...from plot to character motivations and everything in between.

Question #1: How much is enough preparation and information collected before we get to the doing of writing?  


Good luck answering that one, right?  Maybe only the owl on the old classic commercial who succinctly answered the question "How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll pop?" could help!  (Remember that?    To jog your memory or view for first time, here's the YouTube link: http://youtu.be/LZ0epRjfGLw

But I confess, left to my own devices, I can get into a lot a of trouble in this area.  After all, there's a lot of wiggle room in the answer to the question. 

A:  As long as it takes.

Hmm.  That can be a while!  But maybe, the answer to this first question, and any hope of escaping a loop of preparation, hinges a lot on answering a second question.

Question #2:  What do we do when panic sets in about diving into the unknown?

A:  Trial by fire.

Okay, that does sound a bit extreme, but it's appropriate when stuck in the pause before running across hot coals.  Really, when is it ever okay to run across?  Do you count to three and run like mad?  The only way I'd go is if someone pushed me between two and three!

I don't know about you, but I realize I'm often throwing my hands up in protest at tasks.   My first response to new information (whether assigned by a professor or suggested by my writing Muse) is often:  "you want me to do what?"

I try not to say it out loud.  No, instead I'll nod like I'm taking it in stride, while inside I'm thinking some form of this incredulous "you want me do do what?" question.  Whether I think I know too much or too little about the task ahead of me, the follow-up thoughts going through my head are either, "really, I'm clueless," or "whoa, this is going to hard."  Information, it seems, can be dangerous...at least to my confidence. 

 But at some point we have to dive in and do the "lab work" (i.e, the writing).

Oh, the dubious joys of a lab class.  "Lab" is the DOING and each of my classes this semester has a lab component.  Two are indoors and one is often outdoors doing field work.  For each there is pre-lab work to be done.  For one lab there is a "pre-lab lecture" and forms to fill out.  (Things to know, like:  "concentrated sulfuric acid will vigorously attack tissue.  Avoid contact..etc.")  For another lab, there is a "research prospectus" to be drawn up of what you intend to do out in the field.  (Lots of unknowns to assume will go smoothly.) For another lab the preparation is just a "monster syllabus" as I think of it...pages and pages of scientific names that is merely a "head-up" for the critters (parasites) I'm supposed to somehow commit to memory. 

Personally, I find all the pre-lab exercises part the intimidation factor.  If I didn't have the push of deadlines for these labs when I had to show up, I would always want at least "one more day" to prepare!

But what I've discovered is:

1.  The things you do in the lab (and in the writing) will be vastly different than what you imagined.
2.  It won't be as bad as you think.
3.  There are do-overs.

In the DOING the impossible becomes possible.  It is difficult, but in one step at a time (or several quick steps!) it gets done.  Nobody gets hurt.  Much. But even if the worst you can imagine happens, the mistakes can be fixed.  You realize that some of your preparation would have done you little good.  Only in context does it become meaningful and individualized to your experience. 

We don't always get a push, but we can trust we are prepared to handle what comes up.  You won't really know until you do it.

I don't regret a lot of my "preparation and information gathering."  After all,  I just might write a story where my historical research and lots of other trivia comes in handy.  If I can find it.  But there's a big chance I won't know until I'm in the thick of things.  Sometimes the best results can come from taking the initial "you what me to do what?" information and running with it.

Maybe I'll put on my chem lab goggles on to write...just to make me feel official and prepared. :)  It can't be too dangerous in the story, but just in case...

2 comments:

  1. Melissa, this is great. You are SO right about things never being as bad as I think they will be. But somehow I never believe that! Which is why I dread things and make them seem so horrible that I procrastinate doing them. . .and then I get them done in no time at all. When I'm forced to it. LOL

    When I started writing, I spent a lot of time researching and preparing, because I wanted to make sure I was doing it "right". Of course I've now learned that isn't possible. You have to just jump in and see what happens, and realize you'll never know everything you need at the beginning -- which is actually part of the fun. :)

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  2. Donna, I think you're right that procrastination is a lot about thinking things are going to be a lot worse than the actually will be! And I know we all feel so guilty about procrastinating, but it does come from good intentions...trying to do it "right." But like today, when I did a part of my chemistry lab over THREE times, I realized I needed to learn from my mistakes. Sure, maybe I could beat myself up about reading the instructions better, but in my opinion they were flawed and would never make any sense until I finished. If I ever had to do it again I'd add a couple of missing steps to those instructions! But since I don't have to...the next person will have to figure it out. (It really was kind of cool. I made fragrances! Pear, pineapple, banana and strawberry. And also aspirin, which is not as fun. LOL)

    But it's a lot of back and forth, just like writing. I wonder sometimes what the heck I'm so afraid is going to happen in my story if I don't have everything laid out just so before I start!

    P.S. As you can see, the problem I had with viewing my comment page is fixed...or fixed itself. LOL

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