12 October 2010

Resistance and Writing

Saturday's plot workshop reminded me of how powerful writers' resistance is. I had forgotten.

The group was intimate and our time short. Plot in 5 hours working through lunch. I know from experience that all plot workshops build to a crisis point in the form of overwhelm generally expressed by the highly creative, big picture writers. Either the linear, detail oriented writers aren't as overtly demonstrative as the other group or the plot techniques of standing back to arrange the scenes of a story in a linear form are not as daunting for them.

A writer I had warned (foreshadowed) that he'd come to hate me, declared it so at the beginning of the 4th hour. At around the same time, another writer stood up. First her face crumbled, then she fell apart. I won't go into the details here but before long she reclaimed her authority over herself and the first writer assured me he was only kidding.

I'm grateful for the wake-up call. I had done what I promised myself I would never do. I lost touch with how it feels to be convinced I'd never understand plot. My mission is not to rob you of your power but to empower you. It took me nearly 12 years to learn what I was trying to teach in 5 hours on Saturday. What can I say? I'm a concrete learner. People like me weren't teaching plot with pictures when I was learning to write. 

It's different now. Plot is the cool thing. I'm glad.

But, I never want to forget knowing the part resistance plays in interfering with forward progress. 

Both writers came into the workshop knowing exactly what part of their story was not working. The first writer had been told his beginning didn't work by very important gatekeepers in the trade. The second writer knew her crisis wasn't quite right.

They understood they needed to fix something in their story on an intellectual level. The knowing had not traveled deeply enough, making it impossible for either one of them to give up what they had written. First came denial. Then anger. Finally, I believe and hope, they left with concrete "fixes" though, I fear, work is left to be done before either one of them come to a place of true acceptance. 

My question is: how do we so easily take ownership and control over the creative process? When does that happen? At first, it's a marvel, a miracle, a delight when words flood out of us from some unknown and sacred place. 

The story comes through us. Our job is to present what comes in a pleasing form to the reader and audience. That takes setting ourselves aside and opening our minds for the greatest good of the story.