Killing A Story

This morning I read a quote from Ann Patchett:

“The way I write, I have a novel in my head for a long time that I think about, and in those months it is so beautiful, so incredibly profound …. The novel in my imagination travels with me like a small lavender moth making loopy circles around my head. As soon as I start to put it on the page I kill it. It always breaks my heart. For me, the greatest challenge is to stick with the book I’m writing when what I want to do is hit the delete button.”

Wow! She could not have more perfectly described what I go through with my writing. I love thinking about my novel. I love my characters and spending time with them in my head. I’m enthralled by their thoughts and moods. I’m transfixed by their challenges and inspired by the way they overcome them.

And so, I try to share all this with the world, and the minute my thoughts hit paper they are vapid. My characters are empty and stale, the action barely action at all.

This is the challenge as a writer. Many people seem to think that coming up with ideas is difficult–not at all. The hard part is the writing. So much is lost in the transfer from mind to word. The difficulty is to stay at the task despite how demoralizing it seems. Because with revisions and alterations and lots of hard work, the story can be shared. And perhaps there is one perfect reader out there who will see the lavendar moth. And maybe there are other readers who, even if they cannot see the moth, will like the characters a little and will desire to read the story to its conclusion. And even if all they say is, “Yeah, that was pretty good,” I would feel satisfied.

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