The Preparation – What’s on for the rest of 2017, and the Creative Gap

I can’t believe we’re almost at the end of October already! We’re on the home stretch of 2017 – with the way the rest of the year has flown by, I should stop being surprised by now.

It’s Sunday and I’m sitting here watching Archie chase his tail, so it must be time for another (belated) blog post!

The Recap

It’s been a hectic few weeks. My new ‘Write On, Write Off’ productivity plan hasn’t really taken flight, mostly because I’m not too sure what I’m writing. For a couple weeks there my Storyspace was like a battlefield, all these different ideas duking it out for attention. When that happens, there are only two things to do about it. First, just ride the wave. Let the ideas run wild and snag whichever ones seem helpful – the rest will tire themselves out soon enough. And if ever my resolve begins to waiver, and SNOBS (Shiny New Object Syndrome) starts to lure me astray, then I go to my better half for help. She keeps me grounded and focused, otherwise I’ll just float away with all the ideas and never get anything done.

So I am taking a breather. Now that the ideas have spent their wild energy, I can start to guide them back to where they are most needed: Keeper’s.

Amidst all the chaos, I’ve still been busy. The map for Keeper’s is almost done (I’ll post the finished product once complete), I’ve started jotting down ideas for short stories, and I’ve been working my way through a few plotting books (Cathy Yardley’s Rock Your Plot and Deborah Chester’s The Fantasy Fiction Formula have both been great for helping with the preparation stage of a draft).

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

What’s on for the rest of 2017?

Not long left now. I know, I’ve said it before. Hell, it’s been a monthly mantra at the office. But it bears repeating. Where the bloody hell has 2017 gone?

I don’t know, but I intend to make sure it goes out with a bang.

The order of the day is Preparation – with a capital P, underlined, and italicised.

Everyone says that the most important thing is too Write, and I agree. But I also don’t want to Write myself into another two hundred page corner with half a dozen false starts on the way. And I know there’s a lot of other things to do, besides just writing. I want to work on fleshing out more structured content for the Writing Hall, maybe even another website, I want to go along to writing events or groups. That’s not even listing all the new content I want to start releasing – short stories, artwork, maps.

Like I said. Lot’s on.

So for the next two and a bit months I’m in full Preparation mode. Planning, plotting, learning. And when 2018 gets here, I fully intended to open a hundred cans of productivity whoopass. This bastard isn’t going to quietly sneak out of the room like 2017 has.

The Creative Gap

Over the past few years, I’ve well-documented my dealings with SNOBS (Shiny New Object Syndrome), and the dangerous attraction of new ideas. It’s not only the shiny new stories that are the problem, though. It’s the doubts. The little coyotes and vultures that prey on your story-laden wagon as it trundles to the finish line.

I saw this perfectly encapsulated in the idea of the Creative Gap.

I first came across this through the So You Want to be a Writer podcast, run by the Australian Writers’ Centre (by the way, for anyone who hasn’t heard of it before, it’s a great podcast with decent back catalogue to keep you busy – well worth checking out!).

This term was coined by Ira Glass and describes the gap that we perceive between the products of our own creativity, and the taste we have acquired from years of consuming our favourite books, art, TV, movies, and so on. For writers, this mean the difference between our own writing and that of our favourite authors. Now do I sit down and consciously compare my writing to that of Stephen King, David Gemmell, or George R. R. Martin? Of course not. But subconsciously I know this gap exists. It can be frustrating, it can be disheartening, and it can make six months of work look like a waste of time. The theory gives a name to those voiceless doubts swirling in the back of our heads, the trepidation (however slight) that we feel as look over our work.

The solution is nothing unexpected.

Write.

But temper your expectations with patience. Erect a tidewall to keep the frustration from drowning your work. Keep reading, and learning. Most of all, keep loving it. Otherwise, what’s the point?

I’ll leave it at that, because there’s a great post at The Write Practice that sums up the theory brilliantly if you want to know more.

Some of you might have noticed that the theory kinda contradicts what I was saying before, about writing myself into a corner and taking a step back. It is crucial not to let this Gap weigh us down, but we shouldn’t ignore it either.  Writing may be an art, but there’s a hell of a lot of craft that goes into it. There’s a logic and structure to it that we ignore at our own peril. In 2017, I tried to ignore that and paid the price. The story is there, but it’ll need a whole lot more than spit and polish to make it shine. It’ll need a service or two, some new parts, but most importantly the tools to put it all together.

So for now, I’m heading back to the workshop. I’ll make my preparations, pick up new tools and learn how to use them. Come January, preparation time will be over. Keeper’s is going to start rolling again.

 

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