Friday, October 25, 2013

I May Wander But I Am Not Lost, Turning Failures into Something New

Sometimes, when I am printing up one of my paintings that someone ordered, something will go wrong. The ink will splotch or an unnoticed spot will appear or the colors will be off or I tried to use the wrong paper or something will smudge or the printer will break down or it just won't be right.

I won't send those prints out. I will stick them in a box and pray the next print comes out. Every once in a while, that one doesn't, or the next one doesn't. So every once in a while, I go through my boxes and files of failures and look for something that I can take and do something with, make something of.

I had a whole series of prints where the color was off. I finally just took them out and chopped them up into little bookmarks. This is one. You can see the tip of a flying girl's foot right above the 'wander.'

I thought this was a kind of fitting metaphor for life, and a good illustration of Tolkien's quote.

I wander from my path. I fail in my endeavors. I get lost in the details or in the living. Then I unpack all my mistakes, and see what I have learned, how I have grown, what I can make from my failures.

Interestingly, I'm doing the same thing with writing. I'm doing Nanowrimo in a few days where I will write 50k words in a new novel in the month of November. I've done nano for the last 7 years. I dropped out last year because life was just in too much upheaval, but even the two years before that, where I met my wordcount goal, I wrote stories that were failures as stories. The first of those stories didn't work, so I tried again the next year, and that one didn't work either.

They wandered. They wandered terribly into places that didn't make sense and didn't seem to get me where I needed to go, narratively speaking. I explored paths the story wasn't ready to take, and so the "novels" I wrote never went anywhere. That would be 100k words of a novel that wandered, without ever getting where it needed to go.

So here I am again, getting ready to write that novel that I failed at twice before. Unpacking those hundred thousand words, reading them, salvaging what I could.

And I chopped that sucker up, just like the bookmark. My new outline starts with the one scene that worked in the first novelistic failure.The same scene that I started again with the second novelistic failure. After reading both drafts, I realize that my second draft improved greatly on the first draft of the scene, so I got ONE thing out of rewriting it twice.

My new outline for this twice attempted book is taking an entirely different direction. The book, while it has the same characters and basic premise, will have an entirely different flavor. I believe it will be richer and smarter and darker. It will mean more.

Because the thing is, I have learned things over these last three years of failed noveling that have actually gotten me past the struggle I was having with writing the new story. Some of those lessons are about writing and character and plot, but some of those things are about myself, living, love, fear and pain.

I am very optimistic about my writing for this nano, and about the story I am going to tell. Is it because this time I put my energy into planning and outlining instead of winging it like I tried for the last three years? Quite possibly. Or is it because in my wanderings I have grown and am now ready to write the story that needs to be written? Maybe that, too.  I may wander, but I am not lost.

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