Oceans & Revisions

I went to praise chapel at Northwestern the other day. Though UNW has worship chapel every week, this was a special one for the semester since the entire orchestra was on stage, a powerful treat.

They played Hillsong’s “Oceans.”

wanderSpirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

When I sang, “Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander,” I immediately thought of Truest and all its many rounds of revisions.

Here is the truth: on my own, Truest would have been finished a long time ago.  And it wouldn’t have been nearly as good. But so many people have been put into my life to press me further down that path than my feet could ever wander on their own.

And the result?

A better novel.  Also, my faith was made stronger: my faith in the creative process and my faith in God.


Image credit: if you know the owner of this image, please let me know.

the writing journey

I’m reading a novel right now, and one of the characters featured is the author H.G. Wells.  Since it is fiction, I don’t know if the following is true, but the book said that H.G. Wells was a writer who hated writing but who liked to have written.

I was thinking how sad that is.  But I suppose people do that sort of thing all the time, an exercise in delayed gratification.  I know a ton of people who hate exercise but liked to have exercised.  Actually, I am the same way with travel.  I don’t particularly love it, but I liked to have done it.

But writing.

I love it.  I love sitting down and opening up my document.  I love thinking of an objective and then stategizing the best way to achieve it.  I love landing on that perfect “lightning” word.

Don’t get me wrong.  It is hard.  Writing is an arduous process, difficult, sometimes painful.  It is not always exciting.  The rush and thrill of freewriting last perhaps a few months before you find yourself settling into the nitpicking task of editing.  It comes with criticism, difficult to swallow and frustrating as hell.  Your characters take on lives of their own, and they become as impossible to steer as headstrong toddlers.  You write yourself into a dark corner and have no idea how to find the way out of it.  You cry.  Sometimes you write brilliant, lyrical prose that everyone in your writing group hates and makes you cut.  You have to “kill your darlings” left and right.  It hurts your heart.

But I love it.  I love that whole process, painful and heartbreaking as it may be.  There is such true joy in the act of creation.  It is an adventure, a battle of wills against your characters (and sometimes yourself), and there is nothing I enjoy so much as returning night after night to my manuscript, trying to shape something lovely out of blank pages.

I love the process just as much as the product.  The journey is a joy.

trusting the creative process

Trusting the whatta?

The creative process.  I don’t know anyone (except for maybe Addie Zierman) who writes lovely first drafts, and that is just fine.  Freewrite, feedback, re-write, repeat: for me at least, this is the model of the creative process.  And every time I get to the “repeat” part, the draft is better.  If you can boil writing into a formula, that’s what mine looks like.  And then one magical day, the “feedback” part says, “Um, I like it as is,” and you’re done (until some agent tells you otherwise).

It’s bizarre.  Writing– this strange, mystical, spiritual experience– is somehow, for me, whittled into show up and write and then do it again.  After enough times, this clunky, staggering, unrealistic, forced, ridiculous draft turns into a piece of art.  I’m amazed by it.

I have not been writing fiction for long.  Fewer than five years actually.  So I am still in the dating stage with the creative process, still a little unsure that it will really work, uncertain that this formula really does add up.  I’ve spent the last four and half years watching it work (consistently!), and yet I still find myself doubting it.

Then I write another draft, and it is that much better than the last one, and I think in wonder, “It really is working!”

Just like any other relationship, I am learning to trust the creative process.  Show up, put in the effort, don’t get too attached, receive criticism, edit, edit, edit, edit, edit … and it will work.

I am posting this reminder TO MYSELF:

Jackie, KEEP GOING.  Write and keep an open dialogue with those who care about your project.  It will come together.  If it has come this far in 8 months, think of where it will be a year from now!  The creative process WORKS.  It can handle your doubt as long as you keep showing up.

Will you please leave me an encouraging comment?  I could sure use one right now.