Drawing Inspiration

Everyone’s creative process is different.

If asked to sit down and write a short story each person would begin in a different way. You could begin with setting, or a character, or a situation, maybe even a theme or idea you want to try and express. There isn’t one right way. But assuming that someone else going about the task a different way is wrong.

A lot my recent thinking on this came from a text message I received a few weeks ago. A friend’s child’s class had been working on how author’s create their books/stories. The class was informed that most writers draw pictures to determine what they will write. My initial reaction to this was a strong “no.” I’m lucky to draw stick figures that are proportionally correct. The chance of drawing something as complex as the stories/characters/settings I write would be impossible.

I didn’t ask other writers, but my understanding is that most have a similar feeling toward graphically producing their thoughts. (There are always exceptions – I do know of a couple authors who sketch out their characters as a way to reinforce what they are mentally picturing.) I tend to think that most writers/authors paint pictures with words because we can’t do so with other media.

Another reason I don’t draw (aside from lack of skill) is that when I am working on a story or characters it is often more than one scene, more than one drawing or bigger than the moment in time captured in a piece of art. Graphic novels might be the answer to my narrow view, but far outside of the scope of my skills.

But the more I thought about this question the more I came around to a possible understanding of what the teacher was trying to do. First, while I don’t draw pictures of anything I write, I do spend a fair amount of time “spacing out” imagining what my characters looks like, how they react to particular situations, and the settings in which my stories take place. Second, children can have a harder time than adults when trying to express, through words, what it is they are thinking. As such, I could see this exercise as a way for the kids to visualize aspects of their story. This is of course speculation since I don’t know the teacher and am unable to ask what their thought process was.

So, I guess, in a literal sense, based on the way the question was asked of me, I would disagree that most writers draw what they will in turn write. But thinking beyond I see how having kids use their own drawings to encourage them to write what they are imagining relates to my own creative process. Again, when it comes to the creative process there is no wrong way. I write differently than Stephen King who writes differently than George R.R. Martin, etc., etc. Whatever your process, if you are creating and you are happy with your final product no one should judge the road you took to get there.

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Start to Finish

Starting this week I’m trying something new. I’m going to read a series of books beginning with the first and continuing until I have reached the end of the most recently published novel. This is a task I’ve never done. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read full series before, just never one after another after another until finished.

Two things set me on this course. First, my wife has been tearing through a detective series she recently discovered. And second, I wanted to read something I knew was fun and an easier read, but can’t remember where I left off in the series. So, I figured why not start over from the beginning to refresh my memory.

Because of the flawed reasoning of my much younger self there are a couple series I have thoroughly enjoyed the beginnings of, but never completed. For some reason I thought that if I continued reading a series (longer than a trilogy) that before I got all the way through I would be tired of the characters and the world, so instead of finishing the series it would be forever abandoned.

Needless to say, as I’ve grown in my writing I’ve come to see the flawed logic in this. If I did ever read a series and get bored with characters or such it wouldn’t be a knock on my reading stamina, but more so the abilities of the writer. That should be part of the fun for a writer embarking upon a series. Not only should the characters grow and change as the books continue, but there should be things that both the reader and writer discover about the characters past and personality as the series moves forward. This is definitely something I need to ponder and scratch out as I begin toying with the ideas for what I hope to be a forthcoming (not likely anytime soon) fantasy series.

But for now, back to reading and using this read-through as enjoyment and research. Besides, if this read through goes well, it looks like I have added (or re-added) a few books to my constantly expanding TBR List. Part of me feels like I should have started this project with a series shorter than 16 books, but then again, I’m not starting the Wheel of Time.