Writing stories is a broad topic, but I say everybody has at least one, probably more. Do you become saturated with stories that seep up from somewhere within? How do you manage all of them? How do you keep your creative flow…and your sanity?
Much time is spent talking about and training in the mechanics of writing. Writing tips abound for ensuring that your work contains all the fine points of good writing practices. Here’s a fresh thought–are you sure your creativity doesn’t fall victim to formula rather than flow?
So the question for the day is, how do you walk that fine line between controlling the story through formula and letting the story tell itself as you follow along writing it down? Get this down well, and you enter a new level of writing stories! The results can amaze you!
Writing Stories–Balancing Form & Creativity
We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master. ~ Ernest Hemingway
That is the truth. There is not one way to write “correctly.” No perfect set of rules, no specific structure or way of writing declares that you are now master of the writing universe. In writing stories, there is always more to learn, new truths to discover.
Writers are learners, experimenters, explorers, bold seekers of what lies just outside the circle. Around the corner is a story waiting to take you somewhere special and show you things that you’ve never seen before. Are you up for the challenge? Are you ready for a broader and deeper level of writing?
Now, don’t throw form and structure to the wind. Follow my content and you know that I spend a lot of effort helping you get your writing project together, organized, and flowing well all the way to completion. Those closest to me call me a planner, an organizer, a builder of structure. And they are correct.
But when it comes to writing, I know through my own and my clients’ experiences, that writing stories is so much more than that. Your story is an entity in itself. It lives, breathes, and longs for freedom of expression. Your story has layers and layers of its own realities, its own thoughts, experiences, characters, and secrets. Yes, your story holds secrets that even you don’t know!
It takes creative space to set your story free and courage to listen to its own telling. The form is the scaffolding that helps you climb the heights or plumb the depths of where your story goes.
Writing Stories–Why Release Control
What do you mean, releasing control? Sound scary? It’s not. First, here’s a list of what releasing control is NOT!
- Doesn’t toss structure and good writing practices out the window
- Editing is not done away with
- Revisions are virtually always a must
Releasing control of your story means that you loosen up some. Relax your mental grip on it. Holding on too tightly to formula and structure give your inner judge and critic free rein to just rip you up as you write. You’ve been there.
You start writing. Ideas are flowing. It’s feeling good. But, in the back of your mind a thought rises up. What about this? Where’s that? You could do this better. On and on the critic harps away. That voice begins as a faint whisper barely heard and eventually rises to screams that drown out your flow.
One of the many results of this kind of writing with your filters turned on so tightly is the squelching of your story. Writing stories in this mode runs the risk of producing flat, tw0-dimensional work. It might follow form and be “perfect” from a writing mechanics point of view, but the story itself delivers a lackluster reader experience at best.
Compare the difference between reading a firsthand account from a victim caught in the bank as it is being robbed versus the police report written about the incident. The victim knows exactly what he was feeling and thinking. He shares layers of nuance as he relives the experience just like it was at the time. His story pours out of him with a life all its own.
The police report is a flat collection of facts. Just the facts, ma’am. Your story wants to be the former, not the latter!
Writing Stories: How to Release Control
Releasing control over your story is simply a writing practice all its own. Take a different perspective. Assume a different position in relationship to your story. Treat it as if it is a living being capable of sitting beside you and talking to you. Give the characters, locations, scenes, and plot permission to speak freely, to get up and move outside the confines of your notes.
One of my favorite authors, Natalie Goldberg, said, “Writers live twice.” It’s true, and one way that happens is by letting your story take you where it wants to go. Allow it to show you the hidden things it wants you to see. Hidden? Yes, hidden from your conscious mind, tucked away in your imagination.
Imagination is a marvelous thing! It is paint box, sculpting tool, dreamer, builder, storyteller, and more. It’s where your story dwells. Let it out. Go places with it. Act on its invitation to come experience all that it has to tell and show you.
Well, that sounds kind of out there. I suppose some would say so. But writers are part of that company who go there! Saturate yourself in your story, in your research and notes. Ponder them, think about them all the time. Take a day to just let some of your characters come alive on the inside of you as you go about your normal day. Go shopping with them. Feed them lunch. Let them tell you how they think and feel there.
I saw the angel in the marble and carved til I set him free. ~ Michelangelo
No, it’s not being kind of out there; it’s being creative. Do you have the courage to write like this? There’s great value in it.
Writing Stories: 7 Benefits to Going Where Your Story Leads
Although it would be a great general-purpose writing practice to release control and let your story tell itself just for the fun of it, there are lasting benefits to using it as a go-to tool in your writing repertoire. Just a quick list reveals huge reward for writing stories in this way.
- Creative flow is greatly enhanced and increased
- Story emerges in a new depth and dimension
- Changes come forth that elevate the flow of the story
- Shuts down that noisy inner critic
- Produces a rich and editable first draft
- Meets the reader at a higher level of relationship and readability
- Teaches new and effective perception and writing skills
This is merely a list of the most basic benefits you will receive when you implement this writing practice. In addition, maybe the greatest benefit is this: you learn the valuable ability to get out of your conscious thoughts and allow your imagination, your unconscious mind, to share its thoughts. Knowing how to make that switch back and forth is a valuable skill.
You will be pleasantly surprised when you move into this kind of writing. It is a wonderful way to get that first draft completed, too. Editing always follows creating. Always keep that in mind. Your conscious mind wants to write it all perfectly the first time. It slows the flow, and left unchecked, will drag you off in the weeds to kill your project. Don’t let that happen!
Writing Stories: Keep Your Balance
In closing, I say this. Don’t abandon the structure of your story. Hold onto its plot, it’s characters, locations, scenes. Don’t let go of that core message it may contain or that special purpose you have for writing it in the first place. But hold it loosely at times. Allow it breathing room. Listen to it. Spend intimate time with it and everything about it. Take it out into the mundane parts of your daily life. Let it consume you.
And when your story tells you that it’s time to write, drop what you’re doing, grab your writing tool of choice, and let your story tell itself. No critics, no judgment. You’ll find that your story drops any of the stereotyping that you may have placed on it. It will come out honest and real and rich.
This topic will come up again; I can feel it as I put this post together. Until then, get to it! What’s your story’s story? Enjoy the process along the way.
You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have. ~ Maya Angelou
Thank you & God Bless!