Going Off the Cliff: Day Six of the Great Downhill

I wrote two scenes today and it was so much fun! Honestly, you’d think that awful day of writing a few days ago, when every word was agony and the final result was an embarrassment, had never happened.

BikeProf, who’s busy writing the world’s scariest novel, wrote something the other day about one of the most extraordinary things that happens when you write fiction, something that keeps me going. And no, it’s not the candy I held back from my son’s earthquake kit. (Although, come to think of it, a little sugar, judiciously applied, is sometimes just what’s needed.) But it is something sort of like candy in the rush of pleasure it produces, although I hope not in the crash that comes after consumption peaks.

Here’s how it happens. You’re writing along, up to the point where you’ve sort of figured out you want to go. But when you get to the end of the known, you find yourself continuing. It’s as if you’ve chosen to go over a cliff. But you don’t perish. Instead, you find out there is something under your feet after all. (I have this terrible feeling I might have described this very experience at one point in my blog. The stepping into the air and finding something solid under your feet happens in an Indiana Jones movie, I’ll admit right now. But it happens in writing too.)

What’s under your feet are things like a revelation a character makes that you didn’t think would be made at that moment, but then you see that there is such a powerful motivation in the scene you’ve set up for that revelation to happen that it works right there. Or a character says something about the past that you hadn’t known happened. But indeed it did, and necessarily so. Or your writing suddenly becomes felicitous, and you find yourself blurting out something that could not have been written by a pedestrian soul like yourself.

I don’t do drugs. But I do like the mind expanding quality of stepping off the edge and finding out what’s there.  It’s a ghostly and cool experience. It’s a big reason why I write.

Today I wrote 3,000 words — two scenes. I know they’ll be longer scenes when I go back to them, but for now I’m leaving them as they are. I figure if I can get in two or three more days of this kind of writing, I’ll be knocking at the door that says Exit before too long here.

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13 thoughts on “Going Off the Cliff: Day Six of the Great Downhill

  1. That sounds exciting. Do you have a key on your laptop that says bungy jump? Or is it more like free fall? Does a stiff latte help? Maybe when you are on your last line it will be like “snow falling faintly through the universe.” But you will be done before it snows.

  2. Very interesting description, and sounds like a wonderful experience when everything starts to catch fire. I like that phrase “find yourself blurting out something….” I live to blurt, but don’t do enough of it… an inspiring post.

    Regards

  3. I love the image of stepping off into…nothing. It does happen that way at times. Interestingly enough, I have that image in one of the dream sequences in my story, but I don’t hink I realized at the time that it was a good metaphor for the way writing can work. Congratulations on the 3,000 words–I, too, find myself getting excited at my progress and like to keep track of it.

  4. I’m so with you on this – it’s my favorite part about writing, the material that comes not from an outline or conscious thought but suddenly appears, on the page, taking you by complete surprise. I must admit, I used to think when fiction writers would say “I don’t control what my characters do” – well, I though it was hooey. Now that I’m writing fiction, I totally get it. And the great unknown is my favorite place to be.
    Best of luck completing!

  5. I’m with you Bloglily, my drug of choice: Writing. Nothin’ like the buzz you get when it’s working.

    I’m reading Jack Kerouac’s journal (which I didn’t know existed), and it’s really comforting to know that The Man went through exactly the process you and BikeProf are going through. I plan to post some excerpts soon. The ups and downs are just endemic to the process. But when you’re up…so satisfying.

    Onward!

  6. Hi LK — OOO. Jack Kerouac’s journal sounds like a huge amount of fun. I love journals and letters. It’s the nosy snoop in me.

    Courtney, I know what you mean. I’m very suspicious of people who talk about writing as though it was a kind of religious experience — or very heavy going therapy! But it’s true, it’s fun to be in the great unknown.

    Hello Hob (For some reason, I see you as The Hob, rather than BikeProf, although I don’t know why). Anyway, at least I’m not referring to you as The Liver (in honor of your dream that someone had removed that particular organ… eek). The obsessive counting of words is, in the end, a good thing if it keeps you going forward.

    Fencer, That’s what blogging is — a place where your love of blurting can flourish. xo, L

    Hey Mr. S, A bungy jump key indeed! It would snap out when you need it and then snap back in when you’re done.

  7. I’ve been thinking about that scene in Indiana Jones a lot lately. Being able + ready to step off the cliff is, in my opinion, more difficult and strenuous than actually doing it.

    I am working on a short story now and have just been amazed by the direction it’s taking. I’m only halfway through, but it’s already obvious that the ending (which is not the ending I was envisioning) has been decided for me by the characters.

    Anyway, glad to hear the project’s going well.

  8. Hello Ella — I’m so glad you’ve settled enough to be working on some fiction. It’ll be fun to hear how it’s going, and where your people have taken you, as it were. (By the way, those wonderful books have made their way to me. I was so delighted to find The Turn of the Screw among them!) xo, BL

  9. It was really interesting to read about your writing process and see how much it is like painting and drawing. There’s a leap of faith, especially when drawing from life with a pen, that the line you start drawing will work it’s way around the page and end up in the right place with all the objects included and recognizable. Many times an entirely different drawing appears than the intended one. For example a week ago I was up at Blake Gardens and I thought I was going to draw and paint the reflecting pond lined by a row of trees. But as the drawing progressed, the trees took over and it became a painting about about a row of trees lined by just a bit of a reflecting pond. T

    here’s this excitement and letting go that happens when you just let the ink flow from the pen and the lines dance on the page and suddenly hours have gone by and there’s color and light on paper (or mud, when things don’t go well).

  10. Pingback: The Art of a Great Writer « Tales from the Reading Room

  11. Pingback: » From Kate’s Book Blog - The Pleasures of the Editing Process - Best Book Blogging

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