“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”Gilda Radner

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Pixar Rule #2 (and me as a writer)

Rule #2: You gotta keep in my mind what's interesting to you as an audience, not what's fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.

I think this one depends on what your ultimate goal is. I mean, if you're just writing for yourself in an Emily-Dickinson-locked-in-a-bedroom-hiding-poetry-in-a-box kind of way, then, hey, knock yourself out. You can write about gremlin toes and fungus to your heart's content. But if you're interested in having people read your work, nay, wanting to read your work, then it's all about what's relevant.

I wrote my first novel when I was thirteen years old. Let's hope that never sees the light of day. My second novel was much better, but it was the 90s and my computer was old and erased the whole thing when I went to hit save after typing, "The End." (No, not kidding. And no, not over it.) 

I fell away from writing for awhile when I entered the "New Adult" phase of life, because having a career, getting married, and having a baby all kind of made things a little crazy. But you can't ever kill the writer inside you, not if it's what you really are. I'll never be able to stop my brain from punctuating people's sentences while they speak. I'll never stop adding descriptive narrations about what people do when they aren't speaking, and I'll always add, "he said," along with a jaunty adverb when people have finished talking. So one night, a dark, rainy night when wind was rattling the windows of our little starter house and rain was pattering the roof above my sleeping baby's head, I sat down in front of my laptop, and did something I hadn't done in a really long time. I opened a Word document.

A beautiful, blank Word document. The cursor blinked at me. I blinked back.

And then my fingers took over. When a writer writes, it's like the brain is connected directly to the fingers, pushing those words out onto the screen in a magical way. At least, that's how it is for me. And that rainy, windy night, I had things to say. After a few years of silence, I had a lot to say.

And it was one of those things where when I finished, I looked back over what I'd written and I was pleased. I laughed at my own jokes, loved my own voice, and knew I'd accomplished my point fluently. I saved the document. I titled it, "Venting." Because that's what it had been. I'd had an argument with my husband--my arrogant, snooty-falooty, "I was in the Honors Program" husband--and I'd put all my thoughts about it into that one document.

The next night, I was excited. After tucking my son into his crib, I walked/ran to the family room where my laptop waited. I couldn't wait to write again. It was like I'd torn down the dam and everything was spilling out. I opened the same document, "Venting," inserted a new page, and titled it, "Chapter One."

From there, I began the tale of how I met my husband at fourteen. Every meeting, every exciting moment, every letdown. I loved writing it! I was long over our little argument, of course, and was positively giddy to have all these stories and memories fresh in my mind when he came home from work that night. He walked in the door, and I greeted him with a huge smile. "Remember our first date?" I asked him, throwing my arms around his neck and kissing his cheek. "Which one?" he replied, because when you meet at fourteen and stay friends for ten years but are always secretly in love, there are a few first dates, not just one.

I loved writing "Venting." I loved when my mom and my sister read it, too. (They both cried.) I loved sharing it with my husband Joe. But in the end, it wasn't marketable. Not even close. It was meaningful to me because it was mine, and it was a hard fact to face when I realized the rest of the world didn't really care. The rest of the world has its own stories that are just as personal and special. 

Had I taken time to consider that while writing, what would I have done differently? I would have left out a lot of fluff, for one thing. Does a reader really need to read every second shared between two people from 1994 to the present? Not if it lacks conflict. Not if it lacks jarring and interesting stakes. A long, linear list of events that only mattered to me, my story was both too much and not enough, and it had to be shelved. With a lot of revision, it could be something. Some day. But not any time soon.

That's just something that I think every writer must face. You decide how you spend your writing time, and what you want to come of it. But if you want other people to be interested in what you write, it has to be something they want to read. I write this blog mostly about parenting and life, and sometimes I include some of those stories from "Venting," but I'm also well aware of who most of my readers are. They are fellow moms and wives, people who grew up like I did with a crazy family they stayed close to, who love another person with everything they've got even on the bad days, who know what it is to love a child even when they drive you crazy (like my Noah, the self-proclaimed rock star), and who understand that life is something to be taken...one day at a time

I have an audience who wants to read that. So the trick is, find your audience, and write something they want to read. Make it relatable. Make it real. Build a world that is familiar, but interesting in a way they hadn't thought of. Write people who they feel they've always known, or would want to know, and more importantly, who they will care about. And I think the beauty in it becomes that once you begin to accomplish that, you'll love writing it, anyway. Even if it's not what you originally wanted to do.

Please check out what the other bloggers are saying about Rule #2!

1 comment:

  1. Mm, good thoughts on matching up writing to audience! (Also, Noah sounds like a cute kid! :) )