by Lou Gaglia
The time between the conception of a story and the drafting of it is the fun time for some writers. When a memory, an image, a place, an event, or a character presses itself in the writer’s mind, he is wise to let it all swim around for a while before putting pen to paper. This waiting time isn’t lazy time, though. It’s not procrastination. This intentional holding-back, this mindful waiting, can be more productive than heeding the often-given advice to write one page a day no matter what, which can be stifling. Writing can become a chore then, not an adventure.
Writers run scenes through their minds; they get to know their characters until stories can’t help but evolve. They are patient. Even after the writer can hold back a story no longer, and he spills out his draft, a second in-between time may follow, and an equal amount of patience is required. The writer reads and makes revisions again and again, during which he notices that this scene doesn’t work, or that paragraph doesn’t read right, or there’s too much pointless dialogue in the beginning, or the end is awful. He may scold himself over a character that wouldn’t dare use the words he uses in such-and-such a moment, or wonder why another character is even in the story. Again, the writer should be patient and enjoy this time too, because inevitably the answers come. Each in-between stage, in fact—the moments after a story is first conceived as well as the revision process—can be more pleasurable than the drafting itself, which can be tortuous and exhausting.
Rather than be tied down to the chore of writing “one-page-a-day so I can write a novel in a year and three months”, writers should enjoy—guiltlessly—those transition times, when one completed scene naturally leads to other scenes, when scenes and stories are written in bursts, not necessarily a page at a time. Even after a story is completed and a writer has moved away from it psychologically, another character, another memory, another image, another place or stray remark overheard on the street, may eventually lead to a new story, if only the writer is patient and listens and waits until the story almost tells itself in his mind.
All parts of story creation deeply involve the mind of the writer. He never stops thinking, considering, analyzing, remembering, listening, feeling, writing, rewriting, and rewording until his story is as complete as a balanced dance or T’ai Chi Ch’uan form. The transitions rather than the finished forms, the in-between in any art, can most pleasurable, if only the artist remains patient and mindful.
Lou Gaglia teaches in upstate New York. His short story collection, “Poor Advice,” is forthcoming from Aqueous Books.