Gopher_CaddyshackI’m guessing you’ve heard the expression, “She’s suffering from verbal diarrhea.” I certainly have! That being situation normal where I am concerned, for the past two months I’ve been uncharacteristically down with a serious case of verbal constipation. Nevertheless, I thought I’d pop (yes, pop, still not pooping many words here) my head up to say hello and let you know that I’m alive and, for the most part, well, but struggling to write much of anything these days. The little bit I’ve been doing has focused on poetry, probably because of the typically succinct nature of the form. And I’m reticent to share my poetry here because it’s even more revealing than my most exhibitionist blog.

There are a multitude of reasons for the long hiatus. Life has been anything but stultifying. In fact, it’s been chaotic, hectic, full, wonderful, challenging, exciting, wild, turbulent, emotional, exhausting, titillating, and exuberant. And that just describes my surf sessions!

Recently however, some pressure was applied to the gaping wound that is my writing productivity by the talented and charming author Katrina Hodge Willis when she chose me as one of three bloggers to participate in the Writer’s Write bog hop. Yeah, I didn’t know what a blog hop was either, but just enter the key words “writers write” into a search and a multitude of blogs will appear that will answer your question. It’s basically a pyramid scam to get people to contribute content to a topic. That invitation came almost three weeks ago. Yes, the irony of my contributing to a blog series called “Writers Write” is not lost on me.

I’ve had plenty other things to write about here over the past two months, but for some reason, I stopped short of sharing. Some things, like being interviewed on a poetry and technology radio show, seemed too immodest. Other happenings were too personal and involved other people I’m pretty sure would rather remain anonymous. Same goes for a surf break I visited that I wish was still anonymous in the surf world – it’s already overrun with southern Californians and I don’t want something I write here to further contribute to the crowds. But the main reason I haven’t put anything down here, is because I have not felt inspired to do so. None of the aforementioned topics really got me excited enough. So maybe I’m a little off, a little down, a little unsure, and a whole lot human in my reticence to put it all out there for public consumption. I’m pretty sure, however, that it’s a passing phase and I’ll be over-sharing once again before you know it. But for the time being, I’m tucking back into my underground lair to return only if and when the muse chooses to speak to me.

Transporter Malfunction

In writing there are rules you live by and rules to die by.

Write every day is a rule to live by. Put Read every day right up at the top along with it. Drink every day, some would argue helps prime the creative juices, but was also a rule to die by in the cases of Jack Kerouac and Dylan Thomas.

And then there are those pesky take-it-or-leave-it rules. Some swear by them while others take a different view. Some believe that before you begin the actual writing you must first create an outline, along the line that you need a completed skeleton before you can begin to add any flesh. As described in my last post, Henry Miller was an obsessive outliner and scheduler, programming his days and his projects with equal specificity and vigor. From his talk at the San Francisco Writer’s Conference, I’ve come to learn that Alan Rinzler, a developmental editor who has worked with many literary marvels the likes of Hunter S. Thompson and Tom Robbins, is another stalwart believer in the outlining process.

Based on these and other die-hard outliners, as well as the difficulty I was having getting my WIP off the ground, I am working from an outline.  At first I was thrilled with unforeseen benefits gleaned from the outlining process. I found once I began to draft it, many questions and unknowns became known – themes, key scenes and where the story should start came into clearer focus. Once the bones were there, I took the process one step further by creating, under each of the primary outline headings, a series of bulleted main events that act as both memory and creative prompts for the construction of the body of each section.  My outline completed, I was excited and raring to start adding the flesh to each of the sections.

Lately though, I look at this growing document and I find myself getting overwhelmed. It doesn’t help that so far I’ve filled in bits as they come to me, going back and forth throughout the chronology adding things here and there, hither and yon, highlighting sections that need more detail or notes to myself where I know something isn’t quite right or is only partially complete. The result is a work in progress that is taking on the distinctive appearance of a many-headed Hydra, which I am beginning to feel powerless to subdue.

So my question is this: Can you outline yourself into a corner? Can an outline become a noose that strangles your story, your creativity, and a gargantuan speed bump on the road to a completed first draft? Could it actually be counterproductive and bridle your creativity by preventing you from making discoveries about your story that you otherwise would not? Do you write chronologically, chapter by chapter, paragraph by paragraph in a linear fashion that keeps your story moving along in a controllable fashion, so that each morning you know where it is that you’ve been and where you need to go today? 

I, on the other hand, need Google map to find my way. Frankly, when I open my WIP, I often feel like it’s a Star Wars character that’s just been beamed up to the Starship Enterprise and instead of coalescing back into a discernible form, I’m looking at the result of all those little swirling molecules falling to the ground like so many pieces of broken glass.
Ah Star Trek, I remember the days when I used to come home from a night class, grab a beer and a bag of Doritos and absorb your incredible display with the rapt attention of a child on Ritalin. I was skunked trying to find video portraying a good old transporter malfunction, so instead, here is one of the “best” bits of acting by William Shatner, ever.