Writing is a muddle – how to enjoy the muddle

From Nail Your Novel:

If you read my newsletter you’ll know I’m fond of horse riding. And sometimes a moment from the horsing life can bring an unexpected realisation about writing.

I was riding in the woods with a friend. We had an unplanned detour that involved scrambling up a bank. My friend laughed that her horse seemed to pause and say to her- ‘Really? You want me to go up there?’ Yes, she said, and he did it. Much later as we ambled home, she was chuckling about the bank moment. ‘I don’t want to anthropomorphise,’ she said, ‘but it was so funny the way he seemed to stop and ask me.’

‘Is that anthropomorphising?’ I said. ‘Or is it just riding?’

Hmm, we thought. And we felt very wise.

What’s this got to do with writing?

Right now I’m working on a follow-up to my travel memoir Not Quite Lost. I have a folder full of rough pieces. They’re raw ideas, the flock of birds that took off from the gunshot. Now comes the work. Tackling a muddle that somewhere has a usable idea.

And to find the useful stuff, I often have to write more muddle – scenes or anecdotes I know I’ll end up deleting, or might edit down to one line.

I used to find this a bit dispiriting. It seemed wasteful and laborious, but there was no other way. The muddle before I found the clear direction.

Now, I’ve realised I’ve started to feel differently. I’m more accepting of it. I know I’ll be deleting a lot, and wincing from time to time as things strike the wrong note. But now I don’t mind. I’m eager to write some muddle and see where it takes me.

And maybe ‘muddle’ is the wrong word for this process. I’m going to rename it.

It’s a conversation.

Writing is a conversation. A conversation with the reader about your characters or your subject or your theme. And before you are ready for the reader, you have another conversation – with the material – and that is just as involved. That conversation might last for hours or months or years. That’s where you make it its best self.

Link to the rest at Nail Your Novel