There are many sketchbooks in my house that are filled with doodles, quick sketches, kernels of ideas, and occasional notes in the margins. Some pages are littered with drawings of ladybugs, and I recall one page with a giant praying mantis, complete with cartoon speech-bubble saying, “Hello” (I was up too late on a Summer night). When I draw, I let myself do whatever I want on the blank page.
When I write, I put myself under way too much pressure. I don’t think I’m alone in this. Somehow, I expect the words to spring forth from my fingertips fully formed and ready for the world. This is so rarely the case. Writing is called a craft for a reason. It takes time, practice, and effort to improve yourself, your skills. And each piece created requires an investment of energy, of passion.
They also require imagination.
Without that spark, the writing will be flat. Without the joy of exploring possibilities, discoveries can’t be made. And the discoveries are a huge part of what drives me to write. Those moments when my writing careens off the outline and I suddenly realize something about the character that I never would have figured out otherwise. Even the slow, plodding scenes, where I learn what type of toothpaste they use, or their favorite type of tea. Maybe those bits will never make it into a finished story, but they teach me something about the character, and that feeds the parts that do make the cut.
Without giving myself permission to explore, to make those “weird little doodles” in my writing, I’ll miss out on really understanding the story. And so will my readers. So, the next time I tell myself to stop dabbling with a scene that I know won’t survive the first round of edits, I’m going to remember that the words might not make it, but what I learn about the characters, the setting, the world, that will. And the story will be that much richer for it.