Saturday, May 19, 2012


Who knew creative freedom exists within the constraints of form? I recently completed an online fiction writing class where I learned to outline before writing. WOW. Even though I’m goal-oriented, I thought an outline would stifle my creativity (and remind me of preparing for law school exams - the very antithesis of the creative life). Instead, I feel the way I did when I learned to write within the rules of various poetic forms: inspired, joyful and free. Structuring a novel into bite-size chunks really works for someone like me who tends to dismiss my ideas before they have a chance to burgeon into anything. Add in assignments, deadlines and an anonymous 24/7 setting, and presto chango, a fiction writer is born.

I started with a seed of a premise: What if an adolescent girl who plays cello travels to an ancient forest in Poland and, uh, something happens to her. 5 weeks of assignments and feedback turned the seed into an outline for a young adult historical/time slip novel. Hooray! I think about some aspect of my novel every day. I look for ways to make time for writing. Suddenly the world seems full of possibility…

Still, even with an outline, the journey to a completed manuscript is full of obstacles. As soon as I tried to write the opening scene, I got that oxygen-deprived-I-need-to-get-up-and-do-something-physical-or-I-will-die tightness in my throat. The habit of fear is strong. Then a voice in my head bellowed, “You can never write as well as [name your favorite author here – my list is very long and intimidating – or closer than Mt. Olympus, insert Writers 1, 2 or 4] so why bother?” Just a few months ago, that voice would have pushed me onto a new idea or project. Not this time. I have a black-and-white outline of my story idea to quell my fears. I can read a sketch of the beginning, middle and end of my novel. I refute that critical voice with, “Maybe not, but I’ll never know unless I try!” I’m passionate enough about this idea to stick with it. But, just in case, I signed up for another online writing course. Writer, help thyself.

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