Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Strategy. I Haz It.

I love a game plan, people. I just read a great article in the Romance Writers Report by Jane McBride Choate that asked the reader to decide whether she was a left- or a right-brained writer.

Um. I had no idea you could be one or the other. I thought all writers were creative people. I thought the corollary to that was that they were all right-brained.

Therefore, I thought I was a fraud. I've always kind of thought that. (It's not really a shocker; I think all writers think they're frauds on the verge of Being Found Out most of the time.)

I know, deep in my very soul, that I'm left-brained. I love a plan. I like patterns. Routines please me very, very much (when I travel, I create a routine in a day if I have to. Just knowing I have a specific route to walk to my new favorite coffee shop--which I will use only one more time in my whole life--thrills me).

I like to plan. Recently, I spent a great deal of time going through things, setting them in order. The fact that I didn't have a will until a week ago has been something that left me sleepless some nights (I'm easily jarred). And planning for a worst-case scenario, instead of depressing me, excited me. (I set up a living trust, too, and while it was difficult for me to understand that Rachael Herron's assets didn't really exist anymore, I was over the moon to figure out that the Rachael Herron Trust was a thing, and that Rachael Herron was the current Trustee. Little old me! A trustee of something! How exciting! In reality, nothing had changed, but it felt like it had.)

So yeah. I knew I was left-brained. But writers were supposed to be right-brained, all spontaneous and go with the flow and peace, love, and understanding, right? They sat, and the Muse flowed. I sat, and my brain froze like I'd guzzled a Slurpee in twelve seconds.

But this article blew my mind. There are both kinds of writers. They exist. It's why I love an outline (even though I'm not good at them) and why first drafts are so difficult for me. Choate says, "Less experienced writers may find it difficult to incorporate emotion in their writing with the strict demands that their left brains place upon them."

Oh, yeah. I'm too busy lining up the trees on the page to notice the forest went missing a while back. She says my challenge as a left-brained writer "is to combine the best of your organizational techniques while being open to new ideas that may strengthen [my] book."

Those words make my soul sing. Organizational techniques. Hello, my darling highlighter. (I am reminded when, not that long ago, I was teaching a novel revision workshop and I was demonstrating my beloved Post-it technique while talking about the fact that I was a pantser. Carolyn Jewel, who was observing, pointed out, "Oh, girlfriend? You got a system like that? You're a plotter.")

My characters still don't always behave. I don't know the endings to my books until I approach them from seven different directions, and the middles often surprise me. But just the fact that I know this about my system pleases me. I have a routine! I can never figure out endings! That routine is mine.

I feel freed, if a person can be freed by learning it's okay to stay in the lines, which, I must say, I am SO good at doing. Pass the coloring book. (And while I may stay in the lines, I'm giving the main character blue hair and FABulous boots.)


Sophie Littlefield said...

i confess to having the same reaction whenever i meet one of those left-brain writers - "really?" you're sure you didn't get off on the wrong stop, one short of MBA University? But it makes me happy too, because it's just one more example of the glorious variety that makes up our world. Everyone tackling the job their own way...

Gigi Pandian said...

I've always felt rather schizophrenic that I'm a super-organized creative person. I'm so happy to have met a few others like me :)

Juliet Blackwell said...

Love reading this, though we couldn't be more different in our approaches! A good friend once took a look at my office and said: "and from *this* you create *that*?" gesturing first at the scribbled notes strewn on the floor, then at a published novel. But I love that we create, one way or the other!

Adrienne Bell said...

I have always wished I was an organized thinker. I always thought it would make things so much easier. I've tried to come up with editing strategies (or unapologetically steal them from people like you) but it's no use. It seems my brain must always go the long way around, poking at it from this way and that, and never the same way twice.

Long story short: My envy, you haz it.