A sometimes half-arsed record of the process of writing in its' variegated many forms.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Conceptualization and idol play

So I thought I'd try to talk a little bit about the process of building story ideas. It's a complicated and mostly intuitive process, so it's hard to really explicate, but I'll give it the old college try. Story ideas, at least for me, can come from anywhere: the newspaper, a film, something I overhear in the subway, a book, the way a certain building reminds me of something. It's all fodder, so the best advice for finding story ideas is cast the net wide, absorb as much as you can, keep yr peepers open, and just be generally receptive to the possibility of ideation in the general living process. The truth is it usually hits me when I least expect it, and the stuff that really sticks and gets elongated and worked on is generally the out of left field, where did that notion come from kind of stuff. In that way, I am not the colonel of my artistic process, just a tailgunner. I just try to keep the enemy in my sights. And by enemy, of course, I mean creativity and only in a inverted metaphoric way. I don't really consider creativity to be my enemy, I was just drawing out the metaphor farther than it was really capable of going.

Anyway, the meat of the conceptual process is as Einstein is credited as saying one part inspiration and 99 parts perspiration. It's a lot of work at honing in on the characters and plot because somehow it's in yr brain, and you just have to draw it out. You or as I really mean I work in a kind of dualing internal spitball process whereby I will throw out stream of consciousness ideas about the story or people in it, and then react to that stream by suggesting variation or alternatives. It's a pretty strange all around thing, and physically it manifests itself as wandering around my apartment muttering to myself. In that vein, it's good to live by yrself or have understanding or mostly absent roommates. I've never been able to work satisfactorily when other people are anywhere near my process, but I'm an admitted eccentric.

So, it's a winnowing process, a kind of fun battle as the characters struggle to get themselves right. I really believe that the characters I work on have their own sort of existence and selfhood, and I think that gives the process a very serious and delicate tone. It's still the most enjoyable thing to do, but I do take it all very seriously in a convivial way. Essentially, it's like wandering through the wilderness trying to find yr way back to civilization; panic and hopelessness are your enemies (for real this time), you gotta have confidence, pick a direction, charge ahead, and don't look back. Something like that.

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