In seventh grade, I was introduced to my first real writing class where I began learning the rules to writing prose and poetry. We had to break up into groups and have our drafts read by others in the class, and they would give you their ideas if they could focus long enough on the task at hand. I liken myself to a mountain goat standing sideways on a jagged cliff. I am quite happy standing alone, and I do not generally require the validation of a group, especially if they don’t really give a damn anyway. With that in mind, I was quietly resistant to this process. Quietly, because I didn’t have a choice in the matter. I have never enjoyed peer editing, and the absolute worst writing tool to ever be introduced to me was an outline.
Countless times I have had teachers tell me to do an outline for my essay, or do an outline for my story. They might as well have told me to speak another language. I mean . . . I knew what they wanted, but when I sat down with pencil and college rule paper with the intention of doing one . . . I would just go blank. And whatever I did manage to write down . . . look, if an outline was meant to be the bare bones of the material, then my outline was the bare bones of the bare bones.
So, instead, I would just write. I would sit down with my pencil and paper and just get started. Every time, I go with my instincts and simply just write: the ideas and creativity flow like that artificial yellow stuff they spread on popcorn at the movie theaters. (Really man, don’t eat that stuff. I’m fairly sure it ain’t butter.)
Now, here I sit, many moons later, and my conclusion thus far is . . .
GREAT WRITERS DON’T PLAN!
Rather simple, huh? But I believe this to be the gospel. When you have an idea, a strong idea, just sit down to your keyboard and the word processing software of your choice and get started. For me, the creativity just flows. As I take the time to slowly reveal the personalities of the characters, their motivations shine through and take on a life of their own. It’s like I’m a conduit, and the only reason why the story isn’t told faster is because I’m not typing fast enough.
Sometimes, it gets bothersome . . .
My characters are like, “What the fuck are you doing?”
“What?” I ask.
“We’ve got things to do. Quit with all this work shit and start typing!” they demand.
“I have to work so that I can have a roof to write under!” I bellow back to them.
“Alright then. We’ll bitch louder and louder ’til you get it done.”
In other words, a great story will not be stopped. Doing an outline equates to overthinking the thing. And then once you have this pristine little outline, what are you supposed to do then? Stick to it, I guess. But that doesn’t mesh with me because sticking to a rigidly detailed outline is not creative and being able to put fingers to keys and create a vast world with dynamic characters out of nothing is the epitome of creativity.
Plans fail! Just write. As it bubbles to the surface, get it all down. You never know what wonders may be waiting to burst past the gates if they’re not bound by a leash. You don’t try to catch lava in a cup, do you? Hell no! Volcanoes erupt unrestrained without malice or mercy, destroying everything in its path, but from that destruction, beauty will one day emerge.